LANSING (WWJ/AP) – The Michigan Senate has voted to double the state gasoline tax over four years to raise at least $1 billion to fix roads.
Michigan’s per-gallon gas tax is a flat 19 cents.
A bill approved 23-14 Thursday and sent to the House calls for taxing fuel on the wholesale price. The gas tax would effectively rise to 25 cents in April, 31 cents in 2016, 36 cents in 2017 and 41 cents in 2018 based on current prices.
Thirteen Republicans and 10 Democrats in the GOP-controlled chamber voted for the fuel tax increase. Twelve Republicans and two Democrats voted against it.
In June, the Republican-controlled Senate balked at a similar proposal because of opposition to increasing taxes. But Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and advocates of more transportation funding have made approval of a major road-funding plan a top priority in the “lame-duck” legislative session.
“It’s a first step. It’s a big step – don’t get me wrong. In a bipartisan way, the Michigan Senate was ready to say, `We want to fix roads and we’ll take tough votes to do it,”‘ said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, a Monroe Republican.
Now attention turns back to the GOP-led House, which earlier this year passed a more modest proposal to boost fuel taxes to keep pace with inflationary road construction costs.
“This is not a done deal yet,” reported WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick. “This is only a one-house passage — although it was a strong bipartisan and impressive vote, as the governor, the Republicans and the Democrats put 23 votes up on the board.”
“The amount of money that motorists are going to pay will vary based on the price of gasoline,” Skubick said. “But the important thing here for the governor is he now has movement on this package as the plan goes to the Michigan House.”
In a statement, Gov. Snyder commended the Senate for is bipartisan action.
“We’ve heard from people across our state. Michigan needs to invest in modern, well-maintained roads to keep our state moving forward. The snow falling across our state this week is a reminder of the struggles of last year’s pothole season and the aging bridges crossed by thousands of residents every day,” the governor said.
“Michiganders want to see a sustainable, long-term approach to our transportation needs. It’s essential for boosting our state’s economy, creating jobs, improving our quality of life and the safety of our residents and visitors,” Snyder said. “These steps are to make Michigan better and stronger. We have more to do.”
Earlier in the day, the Senate did reject a plan to place on the ballot in February a one cent increase in the state sales tax, which would’ve raised $1 billion for the roads.
“That went down in flames,” said Skubick; but the Senate could reconsider that when they reconvene on Dec. 3, following Thanksgiving break.
Among those speaking out in favor of the “transportation funding package” is Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who urged citizens to thank their legislators for supporting the bill.
“This bill will allow us to speed up repair of Detroit’s roads and make major improvements to the bus service for our 100,000 passengers daily,” the mayor said in a release.
Also issuing a statement in support of the legislation was Doug Rothwell, President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, who said the Senate’s action Thursday will help existing Michigan companies and prospective businesses see that our state is willing to take care of itself.
“Business executives rank access to and condition of highways as one of the top factors in making site location decisions,” Rothwell said. “If we want to protect the jobs we have and grow new jobs, we need to fix our roads and bridges. Today was a major step in the right direction.”
“…We are hopeful that the House will act quickly to complete this critical work,” Rothwell said.
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