An Ohio think tank is calling for more funding for public transit as the state government works through the 2018-2019 budget process.
Policy Matters Ohio in a new report identifies public transit as a key area on which the state should focus in order to create a healthier Ohio.
The report advocates for:
The creation of a $75 million transportation innovation fund to address unmet transit needs, and
The state to find a funding solution for counties and transit agencies that no longer will receive revenue from the sales tax on Medicaid Managed Care Organization.
"Investments like these are about Ohio's future," Wendy Patton, author of the report and a Policy Matters senior project director, said in a news release. "Whether it's treatment for addiction or public transportation, by systematically underfunding, we're eroding programs communities rely upon to function properly."
In the report, Policy Matters, a nonprofit organization funded by foundations and community groups, points to the tax cuts made under Governor John Kasich as partially at the root of the state's troubles in education, workforce, poverty and hunger.
"Gov. Kasich is warning Ohioans that our best days are behind us and we can't afford to do what is needed to create a more vibrant state with an economy that works for everyone. What we really can't afford is that austere view of our future; we need to do more, not less," Patton said in the report.
State transit funding
Ohio funds only 1 percent of public transportation in the state. Yet, the Ohio Department of Transportation's Transit Needs Study said the state should provide 10 percent of transit's funding.
While ODOT Director Jerry Wray is calling for a 33 percent - or $10 million - increase in transit funding in the state for this budget, that is not enough to cover unmet needs in Ohio, the report said.
Policy Matters Ohio recommends the state follow the proposition made by Ohioans for Transportation Equity, a coalition of mass-transit advocates, to establish a $75 million transportation "innovation fund" to support public transit that is supported by both federal and state money.
Medicaid MCO sales tax solution
Policy Matters Ohio said legislators need to find a way to make up the revenue counties and transit agencies will lose starting in July when the sales and use tax on Medicaid MCOs can no longer be collected by the state per federal rules.
Transit agencies like the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority that receive funding directly from the Medicaid MCO sales tax are facing an annual $34 million loss in funding, and counties face another $148 million loss. RTA expects to lose $4.5 million in revenue in 2017 and $18 million in 2018.
The report says legislators need to protect financially struggling counties and transit agencies "by ensuring any new design provides equivalent revenues to counties and transit agencies, or by providing funding from another state revenue source."
However, while Kasich has promised to replace the funds the state will lose, he said he wants to transition counties and transit agencies off of the funding stream.