LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Time is running out for lawmakers to get a deal done to fix the crumbling roads before their self-imposed summer break.
Lawmakers are regrouping after an attempt to significantly raise taxes to improve Michigan’s roads and bridges stalled in the Republican-led state Senate.
“They had a deal yesterday, but having a deal and getting the votes for the deal were two different things,” reported WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick. “The Senate labored long into the night, 1 a.m.; and when the final vote came into raise $1.5 billion for the roads they had 17 votes — they needed 20.”
After a marathon session, senators broke early Thursday morning without passing a measure that would have more than doubled the 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax within five years. They also couldn’t muster enough support for a scaled-back plan to switch from a flat per-gallon tax to one that would fluctuate with price to keep revenue on pace with inflationary construction costs.
“This is a very, very difficult vote for Republicans, and some Democrats,” Skubick said. “Even though the Democrats got what they wanted, which was $200 million in homestead property tax relief; but, at the end of the day, they could not come up with the votes to pass this.”
Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer said she doesn’t support a much-debated plan that would put on the ballot a sales tax hike and let voters choose if they’d prefer that to a higher gas tax.
“The people of this state deserve a solution,” Whitmer said, “not just another gimmick to kick it to the ballot and hope that the taxpayers will do the job that we’re not strong enough and tough enough to do.”
Republican senator Patrick Colbeck is against all tax increases.
“We need to promote solutions that don’t look at increasing the burden on our taxpayers; because when increase the burden on our taxpayers, we decrease the economic freedom for each of us,” Colbeck said.
Senators return midmorning to revisit the issue on the Legislature’s last day before a summer break.
Advocates say Michigan should spend at least $1.2 billion more a year on deteriorating roads. But a long-term road-funding fix remains elusive. The last gas tax hike was enacted in 1997.
Gov. Rick Snyder met with leaders on both sides of the aisle this week in an effort to get a deal done.
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