Road funding budget battle could run into summer

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The battle over Michigan’s budget may continue into the summer.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to hike the gas tax by 45 cents per gallon. House Republicans who are reluctant to agree say they have at least a partial alternative plan, which would dedicate sales tax paid on gas to roads.

“You ask any member of the public, especially as they’re pumping their gas, especially, ‘Should this money, should tax money paid at the pump go to the roads?’ And I think they will answer ‘Well, of course it should,” said Republican Rep. Aaron Miller of Sherman Township.

Some of the tax money Republicans are proposing to divert is currently used for schools. That money would be replaced by returning money currently used for higher education to the K-12 budget, Republicans say.

The House proposal would create $800 million for transportation infrastructure, well short of the $2.5 billion Whitmer is targeting with her plan.

But at least one Republican wonders if more road funding is even needed. Sen. Rick Outman of Six Lakes says the $1.2 billion increase in road funding approved during former Gov. Rick Snyder’s term is only now being fully phased in.

“Nobody knows if that’s enough. There’s theories that it isn’t, but what I say is alright, let the dust settle. Let’s figure out where we are and how much more we need, but don’t just automatically assume that it’s not enough money. Because I’ve yet to ever find a department in Lansing here, or probably in Washington that says, ‘You know what, we’ve got enough money,” Outman explained.

If no agreement can be reached by the end of session later this month, Whitmer says she wants the Legislature to stay in session until they come up with a deal. However, it is possible members could go on break and legislative leaders would negotiate throughout the summer.  

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