LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says that two Republican leaders from the state Legislature will present their solution for fixing the roads Thursday.
“I’m going to be meeting with the two leaders tomorrow,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said Wednesday before a closed-door meeting with state employees. “I anticipate they’ll be putting some solutions on the table, finally.”
And there’s a new wrinkle that could force Michigan voters, not legislators, to raise taxes to fix the roads.
Back in 1994, then-Gov. John Engler, a Republican, got lawmakers to eliminate the property tax for funding schools. Then, instead of lawmakers voting to raise the taxes to replace that lost revenue, they put an income tax and sales tax hike on the statewide ballot and the voters picked the sales tax.
The governor is not taking a stance on something like that, not ruling it in or out.
“We’ll see,” she said.
“So you are thinking about it?” WLNS political reporter Tim Skubick asked.
“I’m not thinking about it. I’m responding to your question,” she replied.
From a political standpoint, shuffling the tax increase question to the voters takes the lawmakers off the hook for doing it themselves.
The governor has some critical thoughts about that.
“I think it is abdicating the responsibility of the legislatures,” she said. “That’s what they’re hired to do. That’s what the people of this state said: fix the damn roads. They didn’t say, go off and enjoy your summer and comeback and force us to do the heavy lifting.”
The two Republican leaders have not indicated what they will propose but Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, was looking at a 20 cent-per-gallon gas tax hike phased in over four to six years and using the teacher retirement fund to come up with some cash.
“That all depends on what else are the pieces of it,” Whitmer said. “I’ve said pretty clearly all along I’m not going to make our kids and our teachers pay to fix the roads.”