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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2003

2-cent tax pumps up fuel prices statewide

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Gasoline prices at Ohio pumps will automatically climb 2 cents a gallon today and it won't be a war in Iraq, political strife in Venezuela, or a greedy OPEC to blame.

State lawmakers passed the gasoline-tax increase back in March, three months before they voted to temporarily raise the sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

The two are colliding on July 1, the start of the state fiscal year and the date that many increased taxes and fees go from words on paper to reality.

“This comes at a time when kids are out of school, people are thinking about having cookouts and taking short trips, and then all of a sudden they're paying more when they shop and paying more to fill up their tanks,” said anti-tax activist Scott Pullins.

“I think it's really going to have an impact,” he said.

The state tax on gasoline will climb from 22 cents, where it's been since 1993, to 24 cents, the first of three 2-cent increases that will take the tax to 28 cents per gallon on July, 2005. That's on top of the federal tax of $18.4 cents.

That would give Ohio the highest tax in the region, assuming other states don't follow Ohio's lead.

A price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was about $1.43 yesterday in Toledo.

Starting today, the fee to renew a driver's license every four years will also cost $12 more, at $23.75.

Annually renewing vehicle registration will cost $11 more, a total of $54.25 in Toledo with the local add-on.

Truckers will get some relief from the higher tax at the pump, but not until next year.

The current 3-cent surcharge on diesel will be cut by 1 cent on July 1, 2004, and 2 cents in 2005.

When fully implemented, the increase in the motor fuel tax and license and registration fees will raise about $579 million more a year for construction and repair of roads and bridges.

“It's a user's fee,” said Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Cunningham. “Individuals traveling in the state are more than likely to buy gasoline. The revenue that's generated goes right back into the system.”

He noted that, with prices of gasoline fluctuating, almost daily, many motorists may never notice the 2-cent increase.



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