On January 31, 2012 the Ohio Inspector General opened an investigation into Rick Hodges, Kasich’s Turnpike Commission Director. The investigation stemmed from a complaint about nepotism and improper hiring practices surrounding the hiring of Hodges’ wife while he was Director of Legislative Development at the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.
According to the complaint, Susan Hodges was hired on October 25th, 2011 as a Work Processing Specialist 2 in an interim capacity to fill the spot of an employee applying for disability leave. A hearing was held at the request of the bargaining unit, and the hearing officer found that no rules [...]Full Story... →
Ohio legislators have proposed raising the speed limits on some of Ohio’s highways. It appears the change could impact revenue forecasts for the Ohio Turnpike and may also impact the sale of turnpike bonds proposed by the Governor.
A recent $3.4 Million dollar study of the Ohio Turnpike by the firm KPMG used a forecasting model to predict future revenue for the turnpike. One of the key components of the model was estimated diversion rates i.e. how many drivers would choose alternative, non-turnpike routes based on other model inputs like toll increases.
According to the study, one of the assumptions used [...]Full Story... →
The Ohio Senate today tweaked Governor Kasich’s turnpike proposal, requiring any funds generated by turnpike bonds to be spent in Northern Ohio while freezing toll rates in statute. The move could lead to a Kasich veto and could be a further sign of what appears to be an increasingly chilly relationship between the Governor and leaders of his own party.
The Senate Transportation Committee adopted amendments to House Bill 51 that would require 90 percent of the proceeds of borrowing against future turnpike tolls to be spent within 75 miles of the Ohio Turnpike. Another amendment locks in current toll [...]Full Story... →
Back in September, 2011 the Kasich team was already developing talking points for their plan to “leverage” the Ohio Turnpike’s revenue stream into a one-time pot of money for Kasich to fund his pet transportation projects.
We recently obtained a copy of the internal talking points memo (posted in full below) that provides ODOT and Turnpike representatives with a standard answer to the question “Why are you looking at this option now?”
As you may know, Ohio is facing a budget and infrastructure crisis. With the current budget shortfalls and decreases in the amount of gas tax revenues, future investments for [...]Full Story... →
Last year Kasich’s team made a big deal about how ODOT was short on cash and lots of transportation projects would need to be cancelled or delayed for decades.
Kasich used this “crisis” to make the case for his $3.4 million study of the Turnpike that led to his current plan: selling $1.5 Billion in bonds against turnpike revenue to help fund ODOT. Problem solved.
But a year has passed since Kasich made those dire predictions, and Ohio’s economic forecast seems to have improved quite substantially.
If you believe Kasich’s math, Ohio will see a $1.9 billion budget surplus over [...]Full Story... →
On Monday Kasich’s ODOT Director Jerry Wray seemed to be backtracking on the Governor’s promise to spend 90% of any potential Turnpike bond money in Northern Ohio.
We don’t want to “set some sort of arbitrary number or percentage,” Wray told Gongwer. ”I hope the governor agrees with me.”
We can only guess what Kasich thinks, but evidence seems to indicate that he’s cool with it.
For starters, nothing in his transportation bill requires any percentage of the bond money to be spent in Northern Ohio,
And in Ohio House hearings this morning Wray and Turnpike Director Richard [...]Full Story... →
Despite promises not to lay off any turnpike workers, nothing in Kasich’s Transportation Budget Bill formally commits to that promise.
Instead, there appear to be many changes to existing law that would speed the adoption of electronic tolling on the Turnpike and hasten staff reductions for the turnpike’s hundreds of full and part-time toll collectors.
Kasich’s proposed transportation budget allows the turnpike to “Fix, and revise from time to time, and charge and collect tolls by any method approved by the commission, including, but not limited to, manual methods or through electronic technology accepted within the tolling [...]Full Story... →
Governor John Kasich recently announced his plans for the Ohio Turnpike, which include adding $1.5 billion more in debt to help fund non-Turnpike transportation projects around the state.
While the Governor didn’t pursue the very unpopular and politically toxic option of leasing the 58 year old toll road to a private operator, the long-term results of his borrowing plan could be nearly as disastrous for Ohio’s Turnpike Commission.
As Peter Samuel, author of Toll Road News, points out: Governor Kasich’s decision to increase the debt burden of the Turnpike to over $2.2 Billion, while tying the hands of the Turnpike Commission to cut [...]Full Story... →
In 2007 Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a law called Act 44 which required the Pennsylvania Turnpike to fork over $450 million a year to help fund non-turnpike transportation projects around the state. The act has forced the turnpike to continue borrowing money to help fund roads and bridges throughout Pennsylvania all while paying the increasing costs of maintenance on the turnpike and the increasing debt payments.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission debt has gone from $2 Billion in 2002 up to $7 Billion today. And they plan to borrow another $4.3 Billion in the next decade.
Tolls have increased by 48 percent. [...]Full Story... →
The details of Kasich’s Turnpike Plan are still emerging. Yet we know enough now to question whether the plan is constitutional.
Two aspects of the plan raise significant issues under the U.S. Constitution.
First, in an effort to placate possible opposition in Northern Ohio, different rates will be charged for those making short, as opposed to longer trips. Second, money from tolls will be used for projects unrelated to the Turnpike.
Hang on tight, because we are going deep into Constitutional Law and the Commerce Clause. This is a complicated area of law – known as the “Dormant Commerce Clause” [...]Full Story... →
Kasich has promised his plan for the turnpike won’t involve a lease or turning over the Ohio Turnpike to ODOT. He also promised no turnpike employees would be laid off as part of the plan.
We should all remain skeptical until a final version of the bill to implement these changes is sitting signed on Kasich’s desk. In the mean time, Kasich, with the help of the legislature, could do two things to help quell the fears of Northern Ohioans and the turnpike workers who support the best maintained road in the state.
1. Open up contracts [...]Full Story... →