LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republican-led Michigan Senate was still scrambling to pass a scaled-back gasoline tax increase late Thursday, a day after rejecting a plan to more than double fuel taxes to improve deteriorating roads.
Senators were considering a switch from a flat per-gallon tax to one that would fluctuate with wholesale prices to keep transportation revenue on pace with rising construction costs. It would raise more money over time but stay revenue neutral initially and not come close to the minimum $1.2 billion more a year that Gov. Rick Snyder and others say is needed now to bring roads and bridges up to par.
"Today's not over," the Republican governor told reporters after holding an event to praise legislative passage of the next state budget on lawmakers last day before leaving for much of the summer.
Snyder said he would not be satisfied with the backup plan but would potentially see it as progress to help address the structural problem of declining fuel taxes — caused by people driving less and with more fuel-efficient cars.
"That's a positive step forward and that's a platform to work off of in the future," Snyder said of changing the calculation of gasoline and diesel taxes. "We've made a lot of progress. But it still needs time to coalesce to get a total solution."
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said it was "very frustrating" that road-funding talks over a comprehensive solution stalled and could continue over the summer and into the fall. Eight of 12 Democrats signaled their support for more than doubling fuel taxes in exchange for a tax break for homeowners and renters, she said, while just nine of 26 Republicans did so.
"It's a lack of leadership. ... I think (Republicans) should work to get the votes that were promised and live up the original deal that was struck," she said.
Michigan — home to the headquarters of major U.S. auto companies — spends less per driver on roads than any other state, yet also has some of the country's highest taxes at the pump because the sales tax applied to motor fuel mostly goes to schools and local governments under the state constitution.
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