Gov. Whitmer: Gas tax hike ‘not always my plan’

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Tuesday for nearly tripling Michigan’s per-gallon gas tax — and making the state home to the country’s highest fuel taxes — in order to improve aging roads that she warned would only get worse without a major influx of new spending.

Whitmer’s plan would increase the current 26-cents-per-gallon tax by 45 cents — going against what she said in a WOOD TV8 gubernatorial debate in October. When then-Republican nominee Bill Schuette said Whtimer wanted to increase the gas tax by 20 cents, she said that was “ridiculous” and “nonsense.”

At least one lawmaker and reporter brought up the exchange Tuesday.

“No, it was not always my plan,” Whitmer said of the gas tax increase.

To alleviate the burden for some, Whitmer proposed a tax overhaul under which retirees and low-income earners would get breaks while more businesses would pay corporate income taxes.

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The proposal is an attempt to reverse parts of a tax rewrite enacted by her Republican predecessor, Rick Snyder.

“I know this won’t be easy, but with one historic vote we can make the investments that are necessary to finally start fixing the damn roads,” Whitmer said in a news release issued as she began her first budget address as governor.

Her road-funding plan is expected to face resistance in the Republican-controlled Legislature, which passed fuel and vehicle registration tax hikes that took effect in 2017 but have been criticized as not generating nearly enough revenue. Critics said the tax hikes only slowed the decline of road conditions.

Michigan now has the 9th highest combined local, state and federal gas taxes in the U.S., according to the American Petroleum Institute. Under Whitmer’s plan, it would have the highest taxes, easily surpassing states like Pennsylvania and California.

If Whitmer’s gas tax proposal hits a roadlock, she could push to make the tax increase a ballot initiative, letting Michigan’s voters decide. However, the governor wouldn’t share her fallback plan Tuesday.

“This budget process is just starting and I’ve worked so many budgets. It’ll take a lot of turns, and a lot of time and energy’s going to be spent. My goal is to get something with the Legislature,” she said.

Whitmer also outlined a $507 million boost in K-12 spending, including extra funding to teach at-risk, special education, and career and technical students.

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