LANSING (WWJ/AP) – It’s expected to be a bumpy road, but a Michigan Senate committee started discussions Tuesday on raising the gasoline tax to help pay for the state’s rocky roads.

A top Michigan senator says he’s looking to raise $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion a year more to maintain deteriorating roads and bridges.

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That’s triple the amount of extra spending that would be infused into the transportation system under a state House-passed plan.

“This is an ongoing discussion, and this is the first wave,” said  Senator Roger Kahn, chair of the committee which is holding a hearing on the House-approved plan to pump $450-million dollars into Michigan’s budget for road projects.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville told reporters Tuesday he’s gauging if there’s support for gradually raising fuel taxes over four years to generate most of the extra money. He won’t give specifics, but effectively doubling Michigan’s 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax would bring in roughly $1 billion more.

Richardville says he doesn’t want to “hit people all at once” but he’s heard “loud and clear” that constituents want their roads fixed.

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Richardville says the bills could see big changes as early as Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Meantime, it’s still unclear how much support legislation for road funding will get from the left side of the aisle. Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer says that might hinge on what happens to another package of bills.

Talking to WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick, Whitmer said she’s basically telling the head of the state Chamber of Commerce he needs to back off on his opposition to a state minimum wage hike — otherwise Democrats might not vote in support of the governor’s road package.

“For anyone to think that a particular issue doesn’t bleed into another is absolutely naive,” Whitmer said.

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