Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

May 21, 2014

Senate leader wants up to $1.5B for roads

LANSING (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker said Tuesday he is gauging support in the Senate to raise $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion a year more to fix Michigan’s roads and bridges, primarily by increasing fuel taxes in a vote that could be held as early as Wednesday.

“We would ramp this up over a four-year period of time so we’re not going to hit people all at once,” Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, told reporters. “I’ve heard the message loud and clear that the roads are messed up. The most common phrase I’m hearing from back home is, ‘just fix the roads.’”

His comments came before a Senate committee began considering parts of a House-approved plan that would infuse $450 million more into the state’s $2.7 billion road and bridges budget. Gov. Rick Snyder says at least $1.3 billion is needed while others think the funding increase should be $2 billion.

Richardville may ask the full Senate to pass key road-funding bills, including a fuel tax increase, on Wednesday. It is crunch time if lawmakers are going to do something before the summer break and this year’s elections.

The GOP-led House recently voted to raise the 15-cents-a-gallon diesel tax to the equivalent of the 19-cent gasoline tax and to start calculating both on wholesale prices so if prices rise from one year to the next, per-gallon taxes could rise by whatever is less: 1 cent, 5 percent or the annual change in highway construction costs. The proposed 6 percent wholesale tax would generate the same amount of gas tax revenue to start, however.

“If we’re going to take a bite, we should just fix the problem all together,” Richardville said.

He did not give specifics, but one plan being discussed could enact a 7.5 percent tax on the wholesale price, with yearly 1.5 percentage point bumps until it gets to 12 or 13.5 percent. Depending on prices, the 19-cent diesel and gasoline taxes could equal 42 cents a gallon in five years, providing an additional $1 billion.

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