Whitmer to propose 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase to fix roads

    Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlines her plans during her first State of the State address in Lansing on Feb. 12, 2019. (SBG/Mikenzie Frost)

    Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will propose a 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase in her first budget proposal Tuesday, according to a state budget spokesperson.

    Kurt Weiss, with the state budget office, said more details would be available Tuesday during the highly anticipated budget release. Whitmer’s tax increase would be phased in increments.

    “[it’s] enough to fix the roads permanently,” Weiss said.

    The proposed increase would generate $2.5 billion annually, he said, and would bring the gas tax from the current 26 cent per gallon gas tax to 71 cents per gallon.

    The state is in the middle of a 2015 increase to road funding by $1.2 billion, but experts said the funding generated under that plan would not enough to cover the state and local roads needing improvements.

    “That $1.2 billion was a number that was low-balled in terms of the total need across all road systems. That was roughly equivalent to just the state’s needs for its systems, not counting the local needs,” Citizens Research Council of Michigan Research Director Craig Thiel said. “The longer you wait, the bigger the problem gets next year.”

    Whitmer ran on the platform of "fix the damn roads” before clinching the governor’s office. Her proposal would be subject to legislative approval. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, has said he is open to the idea of generating new revenue for the state, but only after all other avenues have been exhausted.

    “The Majority Leader would first like the Governor to work with the legislature to save families money by reforming car insurance,” Amber McCann, Shirkey’s spokeswoman said. “Saving people money is the caucus priority before considering a gas tax increase. Past that, he and his colleagues will wait to hear complete details of the Governor’s budget.”

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