Local officials miffed at Ohio legislature’s appropriation of funds

Representative Jack Cera is wondering when Eastern Ohio is going to a share of oil and gas severance tax money.

Earlier this week, the Ohio legislature removed $15 million from the Oil and Gas Severance Fund to pay for a lawsuit settlement with landowners near Grand Lake St. Mary's in Northwestern Ohio.

It's a decision that left local, elected officials outraged.

"For the state the administration to take this money from the severance fund and the dollars from the oil and gas drilling really bothers me," said Representative Jack Cera, D-Bellaire.

Cera says he voted against the measure, but was overruled by the controlling board with a vote of 4-3.

After all, last month, Cera was unable to garner support from colleagues on his bid to take $10 million from the fund to repair roads and other infrastructure damaged by fracking in Eastern Ohio.

"It sets a bad precedent for taking money out of this fund, which is really there to regulate the industry and help the industry in areas like ours," Cera said.

Cera is one of countless officials who believe oil and gas severance tax should come back to benefit the area in which it was generated.

"There is multi-millions of dollars that come to Columbus from the severance tax on the oil and gas drilling, which happens, ironically, only in Eastern Ohio," he said.

Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas says to date, none of the severance tax money generated in 2016 -- $52.1 million -- has ever been returned to this side of the state.

"While we are fine with some of those monies going elsewhere, we’re only fine with it if some of those monies come back to Eastern Ohio,” Cera said.

Thomas also says it’s his wish that more of Ohio's elected officials would travel to eastern Ohio to see the challenges local governments here are facing.

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