Ohio could lose millions in federal highway funds

WASHINGTON -- Federal highway funding to Ohio would drop by more than $90 million for the rest of 2012 under a House transportation proposal, and the state would lose about $60 million in 2013, according to a non-partisan analysis of the Republican-crafted plan.

A competing Senate bill would channel $187 million more to Ohio, over the next two years, than the House bill, noted Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Brown's office provided the figures, which are based on a recent state-by-state comparison of the House and Senate proposals by Transportation Weekly.

Both the House and Senate bills have won committee approval and are awaiting floor action. Although votes were expected this week, both bills have bogged down and now will not be completed before the end of February.

Proponents of the House GOP plan, which would set funding levels and transportation policy for the next five years, said the smaller pot of money would be offset by greater flexibility and long-term certainty.

But critics, including Brown, said the House bill would short-change infrastructure, particularly mass transit projects, at a critical moment. He is championing the more generous, two-year Senate plan, which would give states a small inflationary increase and include a new pot of money for major projects, such as the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati and the Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland.

"We want the bill to be as big as we can afford," said Brown, D-Ohio. "We're not investing enough as a nation."

Under the current formula used to dole out federal highway funds to the states, Ohio got $1.39 billion for fiscal year 2011. Congress passed a short-term transportation bill that keeps funding flat through the end of March, when the current law expires.

Lawmakers are now scrambling to come to an agreement on a new multi-year transportation bill -- and to find the money to pay for it.

Under the House bill, Ohio's funding for federal highways would drop in this fiscal year to about $1.29 billion. Over the life of the House's five-year plan, the state's highway funding pot would grow incrementally each year from that reduced base level. In 2013, for example,(AT) Ohio would get $1.32 billion and by 2016, the state would see $1.34 billion flow from Washington.

Under the Senate bill, Ohio would get would get a small inflationary bump, to $1.392 billion, for the current fiscal year and in 2013.

The House bill, Brown said, "would have devastating effects." He pointed in particular to a provision that would nix a dedicated funding source for mass transit, which he said could create hardships for Ohioans who rely on buses, such as the disabled and seniors.

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