Opinion | Hell no to Gov. Whitmer’s new taxes, says Sen. Peter Lucido

Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, is majority whip in the Michigan Senate, and represents the 8th District.

Update: Michigan Senate panel rejects Whitmer gas tax, as budget dance continues

Anyone who travels a Michigan road knows the serious danger potholes pose. It is past time that our roads, bridges and crumbling transportation infrastructure get fixed; they must be fixed.

The challenge, arguably more difficult than avoiding crumbling concrete, is how we pay for these fixes. Considering Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget announcement on Tuesday, and the media surrounding her proposed 45-cent gas tax increase, many have an opinion on how we pay for these repairs.

I am not interested in new revenues that will hurt hardworking Michiganders. We need to find a solution that does not always require taxpayers to open their wallets and spend. A few ideas I have been working on as your state senator include Senate Bills 27 and 28, which would keep registration fees and wholesale gas taxes in the county where a car is registered and where the fuel is pumped.

Analysis: Whitmer's budget banks on Michigan GOP backing one historic tax hike

I also believe our tax system and the process for maintaining and repairing our roads should be made simple, open and transparent. When Michigan drivers pay taxes that politicians say will go to fix the roads, we should be able to follow the entire process, from collection to construction. Consider the governor’s new gas tax hike. According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, $499.2 million of the estimated $1.26 billion from her gas tax increase in 2020 — 40 percent — would not even go to roads, but rather to replace current transportation budget money that she wants used for other state government spending.

After listening to the governor unveil her road funding proposal, I fear she is attempting to fix the problem by simply increasing taxes instead of rolling up her sleeves, looking at our current funding formulas, and making the tough decisions on how we spend our current road funding dollars. The governor told us she was willing and able to make the tough decisions. As your state senator, I am going to hold her to it.

I think we must look to reform Public Act 51, a nearly 70-year-old law that provides our road funding formula. I also think we need to audit the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Fund, which is holding approximately $22 billion in taxpayer dollars and growing by approximately $1 billion annually.

The constituents I have met with are confused and frustrated over the amount of money we pay for road construction and maintenance while our infrastructure deteriorates daily. Reports issued by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), policy institutes and special interest groups all vary on the dollar amount Michigan spends on its roads. In fact, MDOT published a “Reality Check” claiming Michigan spent $154 per person compared to Ohio’s $214 per person on roads. However, when I checked the current fiscal year budget, $5.01 billion in state and federal tax dollars are collected and assigned to roads; that’s about $500 per person.

Michigan residents have been told the taxes collected are earmarked specifically for roads, yet the 6 percent tax on fuel also helps fund our schools, administrative grants and even public transportation. Of the approximately $2.6 billion in fuel and registration taxes collected, nearly 12 percent gets diverted before any roads are fixed. The remaining funds go through the Public Act 51 funding formula and are distributed throughout the state, rather than where the greatest need exists.

As we move through the road funding process and work to come up with solutions to fix our roads, we owe it to all Michigan residents to update Public Act 51 and to look for new and innovative ways to make our roads better, safer and more efficient rather than raising taxes.

Related: Michigan’s 2018 infrastructure report card: D+
Related: Michigan needs $4B more per year for infrastructure, but how to pay for it?

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

Like what you’re reading in Bridge? Please consider a donation to support our work!

We are a nonprofit Michigan news site focused on issues that impact all citizens. In an era of click bait and biased news, we focus on taking the time to learn both sides of a story before we post it. Bridge stories are always free, but our work costs money. If our journalism helps you understand and love Michigan more, please consider supporting our work. It takes just a moment to donate here.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

PLombard
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 12:22pm

First off, there are no quotes around "Hell no to Gov. Whitmer's new taxes" so I don't know if that was something Sen. Lucido said or just an errant headline writer. Secondly, the tax isn't new, it's a proposed increase in an existing tax. There's a difference. Thirdly, it isn't clear if Mr. Lucido was more concerned with the amount of proposed increase (45 cents is a big increase) or if because it is a "new tax" therefore if Ms. Whitmer had proposed a tenth of a cent increase he would be just as virulent in his opposition. Seems like there's no nuance in policy proposals and the communications regarding same between people.
In my opinion, the greater concern is that during a campaign debate, the Governor had said a 20 cent increase was "ridiculous" and "nonsense." Then her first budget foray more than doubled the amount she previously stated was ridiculous. One way to look at it is that she deliberately misled the public. Others may not be so generous. The intended leader of the executive branch made campaign promises that had to be delivered by the legislative branch, the majority of which is in a different political party. We should hold politicians accountable for what they say, whether they represent the entire state or the 8th Senate District.
I called Mr. Lucido's office for clarification. If the staffer calls me back, I'll follow up with another post. I contacted Ms. Whitmer's office and the staffer was nice and understanding but maintained that the Governor really didn't know how bad the finances were until MDOT talked to her.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 7:34pm

If she wasn't aware of just "how bad MDOT's finances were", Gretchen Whitmer is even more ignorant of the state of Michigan government than I had imagined.

Granted the choices in November were absolutely horrible, but no one gets that far in the gubernatorial race while remaining so uninformed regarding the job she is applying for.

I don't subscribe to this notion about the level of Whitmer's naïveté.

She knew exactly what she was getting into. She knew that she could parlay her campaign rallying cry into substantial new revenue source.

She also knew full well that if she were upfront with her budget priorities last November, she would be toast at the ballot box.

Bottom line: She lied.

That been said, why is it that I'm only now reading about other options regarding funding Michigan's Roads?

The Bridge has been fairly constant repeating the line that "new taxes" must be the only answer.

Is there any particular reason why its staff couldn't provide these before Sen. Lucido?

Matt
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 12:33pm

All taxes collected on fuel should go to roads. Use the new funds gained from interest sales taxes and pot tax to replace revenue from gas sales taxes. Taxes on gas/fuel should be kept in parity to our neighboring states.

Alex Sagady
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 4:30pm

>>>>A few ideas I have been working on as your state senator include Senate Bills 27 and 28, which would keep registration fees and wholesale gas taxes in the county where a car is registered and where the fuel is pumped.

This won't get past the attention of rural counties and the Farm Bureau who have fashioned a system in which tax dollars from populated areas are used to finance road care/construction in rural, agricultural areas.

Dale watters
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 5:04pm

Get the money from the lottery and make Nestle Waters pay their fair share for the water they're stealing from Michigan under Snyder's Act was nothing but a big scam

Jason Conner
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 5:13pm

Campaign promises are broken after every election, that's nothing new. People need to learn how to see past the clever tag lines and educate themselves on the candidate prior to casting their votes. It was obvious prior to election that she had no intention on "rolling up her sleeves and doing the dirty work". She is taking the lazy way out by wanting additional taxes instead doing the hard work of cutting the budget and distributing it appropriately.
I didn't vote for her because I knew she'd be lazy but I'm still willing to see if she can actually attempt to do the hard work by making cuts. So far, it's not looking like she's even willing to try.

abe bubush
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 5:24pm

Bringing gas taxes up to the necessary level to fund roads is obvious.
Funding schools so that we don't produce another generation of people incapable of the basic math that shows that schools need to be funded at a sustainable level is also obvious.
Crying about taxes now is just childish.

steve Redmond's
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 5:51pm

If you really want to fix the roads it is going to cost real money. You can use the sales tax on gas for transportation, but that will cause a shortage for education and local governments. Which will lead to another hard decision, the type of decision that Michigan's Legislature has, in recent years, shown more timidity than leadership.

It also appears your per captia numbers may be overstated as the $5 billion per year seems high. The legislature and MDOT need to be working from the same numbers to allow for informed decision making.

Since 2000, MDOT Directors have stated the need for substantial new revenue to effectively maintain Michigan's transportation infrastructure. The time has come for Michigan's Legislature to be bold, not timid, and seriously address this issue or live with terrible roads and bridges.

Susan
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 5:58pm

End All the State Grants!! So the drivers of electric cars get to use our roads without new taxes. Talk about unfair! Now the federal government wants to raise the federal gas tax another 15 cents. Michigan taxes everything!! Who is embezzling Our Money?

FCFS

John Q. Public
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 7:14pm

Do legislators get presented with a copy of "A Politician's Guide to Cliches For Any Occasion" the day they are sworn in? Are they required to use three or more in any public statement they make?

Jean Kozek
Sat, 03/09/2019 - 8:11am

For eight years Republicans controlled state government. They raised state income taxes on wage earners and put a tax on pensions. (Republicans had no philosophical problems raising these taxes.) In neither case did additional revenue provide adequate funding for our roads or our schools.

On the other hand, state Republicans cut all kinds of taxes for business friends. When the MI Chamber of Commerce argues that business growth depends on good roads and educated workers, does the Chamber wonder if the business tax cuts haven't contributed to the outcome of poor roads and less prepared workers?

James Bell
Sat, 03/09/2019 - 10:05am

8 years of Snyder and Republican rule slashing taxes on business and corporations while promising an economic miracle that would pour in enough money to fix the roads and schools. Michigan would be the land of milk and honey, but we need to tax old people to pay for it and starve the schools in the meantime? This Republican fantasy that you can cut, cut, cut your way to quality is absurd. It's like trying to raid the money budgeted to building repairs to fix needed repairs to my house and then tripling the allowance to my teenagers with no strings attached. The house won't get fixed, but the teenagers will have a grand time. Time to give up the fantasy, face the facts, and "fix the damn roads".

Debra Sacheck
Sat, 03/09/2019 - 1:16pm

At what point is this in the Michigan Republican Party? You have had 8 years to fix the roads. You have increased tax cuts for businesses but want the workers to pay for the roads from increased fees and still have done NOTHING about them.

Michael Vaughn
Wed, 04/03/2019 - 5:02pm

So for the lat 8 years you have not seen constant road work on all our highways...no?
And did she or did she not lie about raising the taxes...its a yes or no answer. If you say no, then she took the job without knowing a damn thing about the job she applied for and you and others elected her to do it. Where does the blame fall in that?

Dave Coffman
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 12:58am

The Senator's style of thinking is what put Michigan in the state it's in now. Instead of twisting tales about shell games how about a dose of reality Senator?

Mike
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:17am

The solution to fixing the roads is to quit siphoning off money from the current gas tax for non-Road projects such as bike paths, streetscapes, park benches, fancy street lights, economic development , and other non-road uses. I am not against these other uses, but let them stand on their own merits and stop using the gas tax to fund them. Also we need to Reduce the overweight trucks and enforce the weight restrictions during frost law periods.

George
Fri, 03/15/2019 - 5:00pm

Mike has many great points. In addition, there needs to be a comprehensive audit of all state funded programs. Let's get back to the "Necessities" , schools, roads, healthy water , care for the resources of our state, and other people focused needs. Recreational, artistic, and things like the lottery should be at the very best be secondary. And speaking of an audit, the entire lottery needs to be put under the microscope.

Don Sepanski
Sun, 03/17/2019 - 11:18am

Mike, good suggestions.
MDOT needs to stop spending road money on trains and buses as well.
Are you aware, that MDOT purchased railroad tracks, and operates trains, with road money.
I'm not against transit per se. But let it be funded at the fare box, by the transit users, and let the road money be used for roads.

S. Craig
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:30am

While the senator makes some good point about looking at old funding formulas, what I see here is an effort to oppose any new revenue for roads. In the past 4 years I’ve paid an average annual repair bill of $800 for damage done by gaping potholes. I would much rather pay $300 a year in taxes and drive on better roads. These roads are destroying my family’s 2 vehicles.

Matt
Mon, 03/11/2019 - 8:23pm

Funny my repairs haven't been a fraction of that. Maybe it's your driving?

Bernadette
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:31am

Mr. Lucido tries to make a "rational" and "no new taxes" argument for fixing the roads. I have seen this behavior for many years now within state government in regards to the multiple complex issues of the day. It would be helpful for all of you to look at the "real" Pete Lucido as shown in a 2018 photo in the Detroit Free Press.

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/macomb/2019/01/11/michig...

This is what you are dealing with. Angry, controlling "little boys" pretending to show up as advocates for the citizen. They sit behind closed doors laughing about how they have duped the citizens of MI, after gerrymandering the state.
,
We have a lot of of "angry white men" who only care about one thing, and that is their own pocket books. Let's not be fooled again.

David
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:37am

I love that the Republicans are jumping all over the proposed increase in the gas tax, while at the same time not providing any viable alternative. Didn't we just complete 8 years of Republican control in Lansing? Did the roads get fixed?

The same folks who claim their constituents can't afford to pay the tax are the same ones who pulled a bait and switch on raising the minimum wage.

The roads are a mess, they need to be fixed.

Dan
Sat, 03/16/2019 - 2:42pm

Yes, the Republican's did have 8 years. And after dealing with corrupt appointed managers in Flint, they had the task of solving the lead contamination problem for the citizens of Flint. A problem that has been around for decades, but was only recently identified as a serious health problem. That is where a lot of our infrastructure funds had to be used. That was the right thing to do. Fiscal reform and responsibility are now the right thing to do.

Anonymous
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 10:07am

Road funding formulas are part of the problem, but we continue to slice the baloney thinner and thinner each year across health, education and infrastructure in our state and we are fast becoming the Mississippi of the Midwest.
We have the some of the worst roads and bridges, most underfunded public schools, most expensive public universities and abysmal broadband access in the country.
The GOP controlled the house, senate and governor's office for 8 years with no sign of any "rolling up of sleeves" to meaningfully reform the end to end transportation funding, allocation and management process. The condition of our roads and bridges speaks volumes to their stewardship.
I believe a gas tax is regressive, about the only virtue is that it is likely to be a shrinking source of funds, even with inflationary escalators, as vehicles become more efficient and we inevitably move away from internal combustion vehicles.
A better source of funding would be a progressive income tax, capital gains tax or a business tax. Businesses and the wealthy are primary beneficiaries of good infrastructure as it allows them to agglomerate capital more efficiently and compete more effectively. Why do they get off the hook here?

Lou Steigerwald
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 11:20am

Michigan continues to be non-competitive with other states in the midwest in so many ways, infrastructure and schools are just two examples. So long as we continue to choose the cheapest solutions over frugal and prudent solutions we will continue to lag other states. If a politician's goal is for Michigan to favor low taxes over investment, then we will continue on our current track. If the goal is to make Michigan more competitive, then we are going to have to invest. Because we have lagged other states for so long in investment, getting back to a competitive level will require, at least for a time, more income. Just like if you let your house go in basic upkeep for years, it costs more to bring it up to snuff once you decide to do so. Michigan continues to be unique among states in the union in that we continue to lose population at a time when overall population continues to grow. Families and businesses are voting with their feet in regard to our state. We can stay the course and continue to suffer what happens when a state loses population, and more importantly families with school aged children, or we can decide that we want to be competitive and get in the game. No one likes to pay taxes; heck, who likes to pay anything? However, to think that we can compete with other states and not provide at least the same level of services to residents, is pure folly. What we need is a clear-eyed focus on what it would take to make us competitive and then an honest accounting of what it will take to do so. It is clear that what we are doing now is not working to make Michigan a leading choice to live or to do business.

katheanncabot@y...
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 11:40am

I am totally against this tax. It will damage the tourism that Mi. has decided that the hell with working sites, so let me tell you money has been siphoned off from all the budgets to pay for anything but roads. Also the money the car insurance should be seriously looked at. When a person one social security who gets $1000.00 monthly and has to pay $1200.00 is horrible. Michigan needs to get their shit together.

Chuck Jordan
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 12:22pm

So Rep. Lucido, you and Gov. Whitmer need to sit down and figure it out. Just get the damn roads fixed.

Barry LaRue
Mon, 03/11/2019 - 10:52am

I don't claim to be an expert on road funding, but merely saying that we need to use existing funds better doesn't sound like a solution. Act 51 takes into account the number of miles of roads in each county and attempts to fund them accordingly. Some legislators would like to fund rural areas with small populations at the same rate as highly populated urban areas. That makes no sense. Urban areas have both major streets, state trunk lines and local streets. They have traffic signals, signage, bike lanes and other safety provisions that rural, two lane blacktops don't. I do agree that assuring that gasoline tax hikes don't get siphoned off for inappropriate uses, but clearly Michigan needs to prioritize road funding!

Bobby James
Mon, 03/11/2019 - 11:22am

This whole debate strikes me as a bunch of people on the Titanic arguing over how best to arrange the deck chairs. Our entire transportation culture is predicated on the assumption that we should be selling (and driving) more cars, when it should be obvious that there is NO conceivable road infrastructure capable of handling them. So where are we? Decrepit roads, increased air pollution, and millions and millions in lost productivity as individual drivers waste hours in traffic and a significant portion of their pay on maintaining their cars and paying for gas. It's absurd! We can blame either party, or both, or we could simply admit that NO solution predicated on increasing the road budget will work. So why don't we do the real hard work of rolling up our sleeves and try to think of a real solution to this mess? I have colleagues who commute 90 minutes to work each day. Could they be telecommuting? Yes. My wife and I won't even contemplate driving to Detroit for concerts, much less working there. Would we if there was light rail? Yes. How about we spend less on the concrete and asphalt that has helped bankrupt our state and more on transportation solutions that put less wear on our roads in the first place? No, I'm not a tree hugger. It is just that that this entire discussion misses the point.

Jim Day
Mon, 03/11/2019 - 2:24pm

Eight years. 8 Years. Michigan Republicans could do anything they wished, including passing Right to Work in record time, despite unanimous opposition by Democrats.
Eight years of solid republican control and they could have done something, anything, to fix Michigan’s failing infrastructure. Eight years to set up funding that would maintain and improve our roads and bridges.
What did they do during that time? Tax cuts for business and the wealthy that failed to “pay for themselves with additional revenue.”
Michigan Republicans also raided the K-12 Education Budget to the tune of $900 million in 2019 alone ($7 billion since 2011) and stole $9 billion from communities by perverting the mandatory sharing of revenue from the state sales tax.
The $1 Billion tax cut gift for business had to be offset somehow.
Republicans have zero credibility on taxes, revenue and properly running a state government.

Bones
Mon, 03/11/2019 - 9:47pm

We already know the single largest factor that determines school performance for kids: Poverty. Kids that face food insecurity, eviction, deprivation, will struggle, no matter how modern the classroom or dedicated the teacher. But until we as a society decide to actually address the root causes of childhood poverty, putting more funding into schools is the only meaningful path forward (even if it is a bandaid)

Carole Currier
Tue, 03/12/2019 - 7:08pm

We have been told for years that new taxes would go for infrastructure (most importantly - roads). The lottery was supposedly for schools, but all that happened instead of adding the lottery income to what was supposedly already budgeted for schools, instead the lottery money replaced what was formerly allocated for schools. All that happens in Michigan, is that the tax money just goes into the general fund, there is no earmarking of a specific amount of tax dollars going to roads and a specific amount to schools. I call it creative budgeting. Jennifer Granholm used the shovel ready money to balance the budge although she did use a portion of it for the smoke and mirrors part - orange barrels everywhere so people would think something was going to happen. What a waste of money. It costs money to put the barrels out and then pick them up again. Lansing needs to start using zero based budgeting, i.e. everything that goes into the budget should be justified not just assumed that since it was x last year, it should be x + this year. The budget should then be used for purpose intended unless the purpose totally goes away...only then should it be allowed to be used for a different purpose. Taxpayers are getting really tired of being lied to.

SumDumGuy
Wed, 03/13/2019 - 11:28am

Michigan needs higher taxes as much as the Titanic needed more water. How about doing something refreshing in political circles and employ some honesty? Our previous governor (certainly no conservative) stuck motorists with road taxes they overwhelmingly voted against at the ballot box. Then people find out a large share of the additional revenues is going to school aid and other places totally unrelated to roads and bridges. If you want money for the roads, then take the money already allocated and spend it on the damn roads! I would also like to point out higher road taxes only hurts the working poor and in Michigan's tourism industry.

David Wood
Thu, 03/14/2019 - 6:31am

You Republicans make me want to vomit from the nausea in my stomach when you speak... You should be ashamed of yourselves. How many years have the Republicans had control of our State and have acomplished very little in regards to our road funding . Your party should have stepped up and found a solution by now. Why is this??????? You don't have the stones to step up and make the tough choices that make sense for our state, just content with being obstructionists, while fearing for you political carreers if you do the right thing..... Election day is coming.... you all will be sent packing

Anonymous
Wed, 04/03/2019 - 5:05pm

So for the lat 8 years you have not seen constant road work on all our highways...no?
Did she or did she not lie about raising the taxes...its a yes or no answer. If you say no, then she took the job without knowing a damn thing about the job she applied for and you and others elected her to do it. Where does the blame fall in that?

Dont give the corporations tax cuts and watch them all leave. David Wood then can fund all our state projects.

Doug Ritter
Mon, 03/18/2019 - 12:20am

Not 1 (one) penny.

MichaelFaustrum
Mon, 03/18/2019 - 1:11pm

Peter lucido makes sense. The governor wants to take money from this tax to use for her other pet projects, not the roads. That didn't take long to find out. Why am I not surprised, angry.

Frank
Fri, 03/22/2019 - 11:51am

I have lived and driven in this state for 60 years. This problem of fixing the roads has been kicked down the road for years. The governor has confronted this problem headfirst. It is time for the legislature to come to the table, quit the whining about new or increased taxes and get to work. I don't like increased taxes anymore than the next guy/gal. Quit pontificating to your constituents about your next election
Do something. Drive Wisconsin highways and note the difference.

Robert W.
Sat, 03/23/2019 - 11:51am

When I was younger watching all these new roads being made and I was wondering how are all these roads gonna get taken care of?