Michigan to vote on gas tax increase to fund infrastructure

The price at the pump could be going up in Michigan.

Proposal 1, which will be voted on May 5, would raise gas taxes in the state from 19 cents per gallon to just less than 42 cents per gallon, raising an estimated $1.2 billion. The proposal would take Michigan’s gas tax from being relatively low to one of the highest in the country.

The measure, which would cost the average motorist approximately $177 per year, is designed to address the state’s notoriously poor transportation infrastructure.

“Certainly that will put people to work, and it certainly needs to be done,” Andy Meulman, president of Teamsters Local 7 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, said in a recent interview with TI News Daily. “The downside for it, for me, is the fact that they keep saying all this money is going to go for the roads and that’s just simply not true.”

Meulman refers to a series of 10 laws that would take effect if the ballot proposal is passed. One of those bills, HB 5460, would use much of the money generated in the first two years of the new tax to pay down Michigan’s infrastructure debt.

“They need to do something where the money goes for the roads, and for the roads only," Meulman said.

There is no denying that Michigan roads are in desperate need, though. Only 17 percent of Michigan’s roads have a rating of “good” from the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council.

“Proposal 1, while not perfect, is the best solution we have to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads,” Michigan House Minority Leader Tim Greimel said. “The so-called Bolger Plan, which House Republicans tried to enact last December and are likely to try again if Proposal 1 fails, would fund roads by raiding $800 million from local schools and $150 million from cities and townships.”

The Bolger Plan is named for former Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger. It was designed to pay for infrastructure repairs without raising revenue. It was reintroduced by Rep. Gary Glenn of Midland, Michigan. 

“It illustrates that not only is there a Plan B, but Plan B in this case would provide what the governor says he needs every year for road repairs, and it would do it without raising taxes,” Glenn said.

Bolger himself supports Proposal 1 instead of the plan that bears his name. 

“On roads, as I saw my entire time in the Legislature, any time somebody put out a proposal, somebody else said there had to be a better plan," Bolger said said. "I think Proposal 1 is the last, best chance to fix our roads."

The unlikely alliance between the Republican former speaker and Democratic minority leader in Michigan’s House is joined by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who also supports Proposal 1. Snyder said the Bolger Plan had “major consequences” for education, unlike Proposal 1. 

“We’ll not create a problem for schools and local government," Snyder said. "In fact we’ll have some additional resources to invest.”

The battle over the gas tax in Michigan is a hotly contested one, and one where everyone agrees a better option would be preferable. In a choice between cheap gas and better roads, the biggest question is not which to choose, but if the money from pricier gas will be used right.

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