The DeWine administration unveiled the biennium transportation budget on February 21. Before the Ohio General Assembly examines the budget, The Center for Community Solutions wanted to provide a primer of what gets decided in the transportation budget, the process that the transportation budget goes through, and what transportation-related items will be decided in the biennium operating budget, which will be unveiled in a few weeks.
The transportation budget
The transportation budget bill is an appropriations bill. It must be passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed into law by the governor by March 31 of every odd-numbered year. The transportation budget bill is separate from the state’s biennium operating budget, which must be introduced by March 15, passed and signed into law by June 30. In the transportation budget, funding is allocated for the departmental operations of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Public Works Commission and the Developmental Services Agency. The transportation budget decides at what level construction and maintenance of state infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges will be funded. The funds used in the transportation budget are collected via the motor vehicle fuel tax (gas tax) and via registration fees. Additionally, a significant portion of ODOT’s money comes from the Federal Highway Trust Fund and highway bonds. The transportation budget also includes “flex dollars,” which are Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) dollars that can be allocated to various transportation entities, including public transportation.
The transportation budget bill is separate from the state’s biennium operating budget, which must be introduced by March 15, passed and signed into law by June 30.
The transportation budget bill goes through a process similar to the state biennium budget bill. First, near the middle of each even-numbered year, the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) informs relevant agencies how they should prepare their budget requests. The OBM then reviews the budget requests and holds meetings and hearings. OBM works with the governor and/or staff to come up with initial budget recommendations. These recommendations are published in the executive version of the transportation budget. The Legislative Service Commission (LSC) then drafts the recommendations as legislation and they are introduced first in the Ohio House of Representatives. Hearings on the transportation operating appropriations bill are conducted by the full Ohio House Finance Committee and by its standing subcommittees. The chairperson of the committee will, near the end of the hearing process, instruct the LSC to draft a substitute bill based on the transportation subcommittee’s recommendations. The substitute bill is then considered, amended and sent to the House floor for third consideration. After passing the House, it goes to the Senate, where if it passes it will go to a conference committee (if needed) and then, if the same bill has passed both houses, goes to the governor for approval. The governor does have line-item veto over the transportation budget.
Hearings on the transportation operating appropriations bill are conducted by the full Ohio House Finance Committee and by its standing subcommittees.
The state biennium budget
While the majority of ODOT’s funding is allocated through the transportation budget, funds are also allocated to the department through the state’s main operating budget. It includes money from the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) that is used to fund public transit, rail and aviation. Additionally, the operating budget allocates money for transportation-related activities that are not a part of ODOT, such as local transportation for Medicaid recipients, which is funded through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The operating budget allocates money for transportation-related activities that are not a part of ODOT, such as local transportation for Medicaid recipients, which is funded through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Transportation is of critical importance to the State of Ohio, for reasons of economic development, as well as health and wellness. This is especially true in this budget cycle, as the Department of Transportation recently announced it will face a budget shortfall of $1 billion per year over the next decade. By understanding what gets decided in which budget, citizens can engage with their lawmakers to provide their thoughts and feedback on issues that are important to them.