GRAND RAPIDS – A bipartisan panel of four top legislators Friday saw divided reaction to a proposal from former legislative leaders for a 47-cent increase in the gasoline tax over time, but also some consensus on the need to change how the state funds its roads.
At the Michigan Press Association’s annual conference, House Majority Floor Leader Triston Cole (R-Mancelona), Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), House Majority Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) were asked their thoughts on road funding, especially in light of the gasoline tax proposal unveiled Thursday.
Amid Governor Gretchen Whitmer‘s push for road funding, Republicans have largely consolidated around a response of letting the 2015 road funding plan to add $1.2 billion in road spending phase in.
Cole said he wants to see the 2015 plan fully implemented “before we look at any massive changes.”
Further, he asserted the road building industry needs time to have the capacity to increase workload, although the road builders have long backed more funding.
Stamas, the Senate Appropriations Committee chair, said the state does “have a problem with our funding.” But, similar to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), he said the gasoline tax is a declining source of revenue as vehicles become more fuel efficient.
He noted there has been renewed discussion about removing the sales tax from gasoline and raising the fuel tax – a move that would be revenue-neutral but remove $1 billion mostly from K-12 schools. But he said that concept was part of the ill-fated Proposal 1 of 2015, which was soundly defeated.
Stamas also warned against trying to fix too much at once for fear of causing major traffic jams.
Neither Moss nor Rabhi specifically embraced the 47-cent plan, but both said new revenue is needed. Moss noted the widespread agreement that the state needs $2 billion more per year for its roads above the $1.2 billion enacted in 2015.
“If there was a mandate in 2018 from both parties and both sides of the electorate that went to the polls, it was to fix the roads in Michigan,” Moss said.
Said Rabhi: “We cannot cut our way to the revenue necessary to fix our roads. We need to find new revenue for fixing the roads.”
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.