Conservatives Back Countywide Transportation Tax
By Chris Wetterich | Cincinnati Business Courier
February 14, 2020
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, a Democrat, and Ohio House Majority Leader State Representative Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township, endorsed the tax, which is on the March 17 ballot, at a news conference at Westwood Town Hall.
Rhodes’ support was particularly notable because he helped lead the opposition in 2002 to the last transit levy on a Hamilton County ballot, the MetroMoves measures, which would have expanded bus service and built several light rail lines.
“That was a boondoggle from the get go. It would have taken 10 years to get there,” Rhodes said in an interview with the Business Courier. “This is transportation, bus transportation. No streetcars are in it, thank God. It’s a device to get people to jobs, which is the major thing for me. Plus, the city earnings tax is going to be reduced.”
Rhodes echoed the reasons other corporate and government leaders have put forward for the tax, which is being called the “Move Forward” plan.
“I know people in Westwood that transfer two or three times to get to UC,” Rhodes said. “If we can’t get people to jobs, what’s going to happen? I think it’s important we have a solid transportation system across the county. I believe in good bus service and always have.”
Seitz was key to the legislature approving a law that will allow one-fourth of the revenue from the levy, which will raise $130 million annually, to be used for public infrastructure, such as road and bridge repairs. The county’s Public Works Integrating Committee, made up of Cincinnati, county, township and small city officials, will decide how the infrastructure money is doled out.
“This is one of those rare instances when the community is faced with an opportunity that is truly bipartisan and beneficial to everyone,” Seitz said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a bus rider or not, this will give us the chance to begin tackling the serious infrastructure challenges like the Western Hills Viaduct and so many others facing Hamilton County.”
Under the plan, the city’s 0.3% transit earnings tax will be retired, resulting in a net tax cut for everyone who works in the city of Cincinnati and makes more than $20,000 annually. Hamilton County’s sales tax will rise from 7% to 7.8%, the second-highest rate in Ohio behind Cuyahoga County.
Metro has said the plan will allow it to fully fund its Reinventing Metro plan, which calls for 24-hour service along some corridors, more-frequent service along most routes, new crosstown routes and neighborhood circulators, and bus-rapid transit, a rail-like bus service with limited stops, stations, traffic signal priority and dedicated lanes. The plan assumes Metro will receive more grants than it receives today, including needed federal money for BRT.
Move Forward leaders released a list of other endorsements on Friday, including Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor, Montgomery Mayor Chris Dobrozsi, Anderson Township Trustee Josh Gerth and Silverton Councilman Mark Quarry.
Reprint provided as a Government Affairs service of the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS®.