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

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer presents her first budget to a joint House and Senate appropriations committee meeting in Lansing on Tuesday. “This is not easy,” Whitmer told the panel of the large proposed increase in gas taxes. “If it was, our predecessors would have done this and they would have done it right.” (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

A single, simple vote. With just the push of a button, Michigan lawmakers can solve the many vexing, expensive problems plaguing the state.

At least, that’s how Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pitched her first budget proposal to legislators Tuesday, before a joint meeting of the state House and Senate appropriations committees.

The centerpiece of her budget plan for 2020, the item on which much of the whole proposal hinges: A 45-cent gas tax increase phased in over a year.

Opinion: Hell no to Gov. Whitmer’s new taxes, says Sen. Peter Lucido
Opinion: Want to help Michigan’s poor and middle class? Scrap the gas tax

It will be a challenging vote for the Republican-dominated Legislature, and she knows it. But without the gas tax increase (or some other way to raise a hefty $2.5 billion for roads), everything else in the budgetary Rube Goldberg machine will fall apart.

How Whitmer’s proposed tax changes interact with one another — and how the Republican-controlled Legislature pushes to adjust them — will also present the first major test of bipartisanship during Whitmer’s young administration.

“It really comes down to that one vote,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “We have to make that first decision, and then all the other dominoes fall, so to speak. It’s all predicated on us making that bold and significant choice to raise gas taxes by 45 cents.”

Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy and a former Democratic state legislator, said it was smart for Whitmer to essentially put multiple hard votes together under one bill; it makes it more palatable for lawmakers who will face scrutiny come election time.

“Politically, it is helpful for both the (Democrats) and the Republicans to just have to take one hard vote,” she said. “Because I’d say there’s probably more good things in this budget than there are that would cause heartburn for some folks who are concerned about tax increases.”

The gas tax hike would raise $2.5 billion more per year to spend on fixing Michigan’s crumbling roads, addressing a central Whitmer campaign promise. Getting a win on the gas tax sets in motion a cascade of money by freeing up $600 million in income tax dollars that would otherwise be used for roads. Those income tax dollars would now go to public universities, replacing funds that have been diverted for more than a decade from the School Aid Fund. Using the Rube Goldberg analogy, that leaves more money for K-12 schools.

The cascading effects of Whitmer’s budget proposal continue.

Opinion: Everyone – not just drivers – should pay for Michigan roads

She also wants to repeal a 2011 tax on some retirement income imposed by her predecessor, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, a goal supported by some lawmakers from both parties. To resolve the roughly $300 million hole that would create in the general fund, she offered a measure that immediately received a chilly reception from the business community: Raising the tax rate small businesses pay so it matches that paid by corporations.

“The worst vote a legislator can take is a vote that proposes to solve a problem but doesn’t actually fix it,” Whitmer told lawmakers. “That’s why we wrote this budget so it requires one historic vote — that when you pull that lever, we fix a lot of problems in the state of Michigan.”

Based on early feedback, the budget proposal may be a hard sell. Whitmer encouraged lawmakers to pass a budget before they leave for summer break, seeking to avoid the last-minute wrangling that led to brief government shutdowns during Michigan’s last era of divided government in the late 2000s.

Yet while Democrats praised Whitmer for taking bold action to address the state’s history of underfunding critical state programs, from infrastructure to education, some Republicans say they are concerned about the size of the gas tax hike, repealing the so-called “pension tax” and raising small business tax rates.

“This really is a budget constructed based on a single premise, and all other parts of it are dependent upon the idea that we would seek additional money from our Michigan families,” said McCann, Shirkey’s spokeswoman. “And that is a starting point that Senator Shirkey would not have come up with on his own. We’ll first work through difference of philosophies, I think, and then come to more nuts-and-bolts negotiations.”

The state budget is complicated and interconnected, and spending increases become more difficult to sell to the public if the public doesn’t understand what the money will be used for, said Charles Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University.

“As a result of that fact about how people behave toward taxes, Michigan’s tax system is super-earmarked,” Ballard said. “I think the governor’s budget is trying to make the most sense out of that that she can.”

The gas tax

Whitmer’s plan centers on a 45-cent gas tax increase, to be phased in at six-month increments between Oct. 1, 2019, and Oct. 1, 2020. It is based on estimates from independent studies that showed Michigan needs to infuse roughly $2.5 billion per year into state and local roads on top of what it’s already spending.

The $2.5 billion generated by the gas tax increase would be held in a new fund, to be distributed by road category and how heavily it’s used. The current gas tax of 26.3 cents per gallon, as well as the 6 percent state sales tax currently paid on fuel, would remain in a state formula that divides the money between the state, counties and cities.

Whitmer noted that other states, including Ohio, have proposed hikes to their gas taxes. Michigan’s tax, however, would become the highest in the nation. Whitmer argues that this is an unpleasant necessity given that the state now spends less per capita on roads than surrounding states.

She also proposed doubling the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income residents from 6 percent to 12 percent over the same period as the gas tax goes up, to offset the burden on the poorest drivers.

“No one likes to raise taxes,” she told lawmakers Tuesday. “I wish I didn’t have to come here today and put this budget before you, because I know it’s hard. But the hard truth is, we’ve got to get to work. Every day we don’t, we are jeopardizing our economic future, wasting our money and endangering our people. No more shell games and half measures. Here’s a real plan.”

A $1.2 billion road-funding plan GOP legislators passed in 2015 has not yet fully materialized. By 2021, roughly $600 million in income tax dollars will be diverted to roads, with the other half coming from a previous gas tax hike and higher vehicle registration fees. Yet that plan has been criticized as inadequate to get Michigan’s roads into good and fair condition.

More than three-quarters of Michigan’s state-maintained roads, or 78 percent, are in good or fair condition, though that’s predicted to decline even with the 2015 investment. Whitmer’s plan would increase the percentage to 91 percent by 2029.

Business groups, from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to the Detroit Regional Chamber, issued statements calling the road-funding aspect of Whitmer’s proposal bold.

“We are prepared to support a meaningful increase in user fees phased in over time,” the Michigan Chamber’s statement read, adding that it commends Whitmer’s office for the proposal. “We urge lawmakers to recognize that state government must take bold action to fix the roads and we look forward to working with them to solve this problem.”

Jacobs, of the Michigan League, acknowledged the increase is a “big bite,” but said it’s a necessary step given the state’s unwillingness in the past to address infrastructure maintenance.

“In this life, you get what you pay for,” she said.

Some Republican lawmakers, however, criticized Whitmer’s road-funding proposal as unrealistic.

“Tax increases aren’t solutions. Unfortunately, what we heard from the governor are plans to tax and spend — not real solutions for fixing our roads, improving our schools or continuing Michigan’s economic comeback,” said state Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron and chairman of the House appropriations committee, in a statement.

“Michigan drivers deserve every possible effort to make sure the taxes they’re already paying are used effectively and efficiently. But I didn’t see that in her plan,” Hernandez said. “Coming out of the gate by proposing a 45-cent per gallon tax increase starts the conversation on the wrong foot. Taxpayers deserve better.”

Is the idea dead on arrival? Not necessarily, said James Hohman, fiscal policy director at the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank.

It could be a moon shot that draws Republican lawmakers, concerned about the size of the increase, to the table to discuss alternatives, Hohman said.

"Proposing to become the state that taxes fuel the most by far is a heavy lift by itself, but it’s a heavy lift we should have expected, because Governor Whitmer ran on more road spending," he said. “She started by making a pretty substantial ask, so if that is unacceptable — and it seems like at least for the House Appropriations Chair (Hernandez) it is — it’s up to them to try and find consensus on other priorities.”

Tom Shields, a Republican consultant at Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group, said it’s such a high hike that it will force the Legislature to essentially rewrite the budget.

“While it’s common political strategy to take on controversial issues in the first year in hope the voters will forget by 2022, these tax proposals will never see the light of day in the Republican Legislature,” he said.

The higher education funding shift

Covering the state’s $2.5 billion road-funding need with the new gas tax revenue would free up the $600 million in diverted income taxes from the 2015 road-funding plan to use for other general-fund priorities, state budget Director Chris Kolb said Tuesday.

How it would be used instead: To offset about $500 million for public universities paid out of the state’s School Aid Fund, which primarily funds K-12 public schools.

Moving higher education out of the state’s K-12 budget was one of Whitmer’s campaign issues, and a practice she opposed as a state legislator. Her budget would keep community colleges in the School Aid Fund as part of a streamlined, preschool-to-grade 14 education approach.

“The School Aid Fund has been robbed to fill other budget holes for 10 years. Out of the 50 states, we ranked dead last in revenue growth for K-12 schools between 1995 and 2015,” Whitmer told legislators. “And not coincidentally, in that same period of time, our kids have paid the worst price, because we have fallen precipitously (in academic performance) over the last 20 years. Every other state in the nation is meeting their kids’ needs better than we are.”

Related: Michigan cut school funding and school performance plummeted. Coincidence?
Related: Seven things to know about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s debt-free college plan

That shift will allow Whitmer’s administration to pay for increases to the state’s per-student funding formula for school districts, including more money for literacy coaches, career and technical education and special education services.

Unsurprisingly, Whitmer won praise from education advocates, including teachers unions and the School Finance Research Collaborative, which issued a report calling for more public school funding.

“We applaud Gov. Whitmer for calling for a new, fairer school funding approach that will help meet the needs of all Michigan students,” Wanda Cook-Robinson, project director for the collaborative, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Gov. Whitmer on a new funding method that provides all students the same opportunity to get a high-quality education and compete for jobs.”

Yet achieving this will depend on Republican legislators who control the budget process supporting the end of using state income tax dollars for roads, especially before that money has been phased in.

Shirkey, for one, has said previously that while new revenue is needed to solve the road-funding problem, it should not be the first place the state looks for a solution.

“Senate Republicans are going to take time through the (appropriations) committee process (and) look at where we can find funding first within the current budget,” said Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland and chairman of the powerful Senate appropriations committee.

Stamas added that after that point, if new revenue is needed, lawmakers will have a conversation about how much funding is needed and the best approach to generate it.

The pension tax and small business taxes

Whitmer also proposed repealing the state’s unpopular tax on some retirement income, adopted in 2011 as part of Snyder’s broader tax overhaul that also changed how businesses are taxed in Michigan.

A repeal of that tax would cost the state about $330 million in individual income tax revenue, according to a recent House Fiscal Agency analysis of a bill that has cleared a House committee. That would amount to about $255 million from the state’s general fund, and another $75 million from the School Aid Fund.

State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks told Bridge the state estimates repealing the Snyder-era pension tax will cost the state $355 million in 2021.

Supporters of repeal include lawmakers from both parties, who contend the tax shift placed a bigger tax burden on individuals, especially seniors, than on businesses.

“Democrats have been talking about this forever,” House Democratic Leader Christine Greig, of Farmington Hills, told Bridge before Whitmer’s budget presentation. “It does put a strain on the budget. So again, I think the governor’s overall approach of making these shifts is very important, but you also have to do it in a fiscally responsible way.”

That approach creates what Kolb, the state budget director, called “business tax parity.” Whitmer proposed creating a new 6 percent business tax for small businesses, typically limited liability companies, or LLCs, that currently report their business income on their personal income tax returns, which is taxed at the individual income tax rate of 4.25 percent.

Corporations, however, pay the 6 percent corporate income tax created in 2011. Whitmer’s proposal would tax smaller businesses at the 6 percent rate to match what larger corporations pay, while allowing them to use a credit for their business tax on their personal income tax returns to avoid taxing business income twice, Eubanks said.

The state also proposes exempting the first $50,000 of business income from the new small business tax, intended to help smaller companies, Eubanks said. And the state also expects that small businesses that currently report their business income on their personal income tax returns could see a federal tax benefit because new tax law changes limit state and local tax deductions to $10,000.

The reaction from business groups was swift: That will kill jobs.

Related: Michigan businesses to Whitmer: Focus on talent, stay consistent on taxes

The Small Business Association of Michigan said it would essentially serve as a 41 percent tax increase on more than 100,000 small businesses in the state.

“Michigan has made substantial economic gains in employment since double taxation on small businesses was eliminated in 2011,” said Rob Fowler, SBAM’s CEO, in a statement. “Gov. Whitmer’s proposal would be a major step backward and a job-killer for small businesses, who make up most of the employment and employment growth in our state.”

Democrats contend that businesses won billions of dollars in tax cuts eight years ago, at the expense of working Michiganders. The state also is obligated to pay out tax refunds under the state’s old Michigan Business Tax, which reduces the amount of net tax revenue the state receives from businesses.

“One of the problems that we had under the last governor was basically allowing some companies to pay the business tax and others not,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., a Democrat from Ingham County’s Meridian Township, in an interview.

“We should be actually making sure they’re paying their fair share,” Hertel said. “We all know that businesses drive on roads (and) businesses need an educated and talented workforce. They should pay the cost of actually investing in Michigan.”

Bridge staff writer Jim Malewitz contributed to this report.

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Tue, 03/05/2019 - 8:35pm

A complete lack of creative long term thinking but a giant goodie bag for all her supporters! The enviroleftists get a giant gas tax while leaving fast growing number of electric cars completely untouched. The teacher unions, who own this governor get to have our gas tax to an even greater degree indirectly fund schools (and lots of new members), at least as long as we use petrol And state tax free income for our wealthiest age group as long as they receive a pension, (union members)! The state legislature should just send her back to her drawing board for another try the public will be thankful.

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 9:11am

So your solution is? Just continue doing nothing like the Michigan GOP has done for the last 8 years?

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 9:40am

Matt and the wider Conservative movement have no solutions. They never have and they never will

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 1:58pm

OK Bones, How about toll roads? Easy pass systems are all over Europe and other states, they work well. We have some great candidates for them. Nor are gas taxes really the issue, as much as it's having your rate being completely out of wack with every other state in your region. It's about being competitive so Michigan isn't a one industry state.

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:19am

Fl,OH, IN and IL all have toll roads and HIGH gas tax SO wht you point<<<<

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 9:25pm

Toll roads are a great way to funnel public money into private hands (so I'm not remotely surprised that you'd suggest it). Gas taxes need to be increased marginally (~ $0.15 per gallon) with the stipulation that resulting funds be dedicating to the roads. Further, repeal Michigan's ban on graduated income tax, and increase the corporate tax rate.

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:43am

Didnt you understand his position? Why are electric car owners not sharing in the costs?

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 1:37pm

Actually Rick I think Michigan is doing quite well considering that it went through a major economic dislocation, although this change will be generational rather than the terms of one governor. Our state is moving toward a much more diversified economy than it was before the manufacturing meltdown. Road funding was increasing substantially in spite of the voters turning down more funding a couple years ago, all before Whitmer pulled this massive funding shell game. I'm unconvinced that schools have not turned a corner. And unlike your baying herd of lefties out there I have a hard time blaming Rick Snyder for PFAS contamination from 50 years ago. But since you asked, I hoped that the Governor would have brought out a road funding program that reflected all vehicles regardless of their fuel use or MPGs and changed truck load weight laws for starters, not that I'm all opposed to any gas tax. But unfortunately, in the spirit of letting no crisis go unused, she used the "Fixing the damn roads" to rearrange the existing road funding so she move funds away from roads to her pay masters and then replenish then with an unnecessarily massive fuel tax. After calling Schutte a liar for his +20 cent gas tax accusation!

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

8 Years more like 28 years,,, 8 years of Snyder the Snake, 8 years of Jen I am a closet republican and Engler clone GrandMold and 12 years of i help cover for a rappist at MSU Engler

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 9:25am

My sentiments exactly, Matt. It's right back to the Granholm era "we hate business" environment. If she gets her way I'll be spending another $8,000 a year because of being double taxed on my S-corp. Next to no one is going to qualify to use Whitmer's tax credit to reduce it. The rest of us get to pay for public retirees not paying income tax even though they were paid from tax dollars all their careers. Maybe Whitmer and Hertel don't think they use the roads of benefit from a talented work force. Sickening and another reason to leave Michigan.

Jim tomlinson
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 11:13am

So what’s the conservative solution. Gut education? What? Let infrastructure continue to crumble? Roads bridges have been ignored for a decade or so under the banner of austerity. Austerity rarely works. Bad roads are bad for business us that not true? Guess all public assets could be sold off to highest bidder? The environment is important to next gen? Do conservatives really want to leave a despoiled landscape as a legacy?

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 1:45pm

I don't see that anyone said cut school funding or anything about trashing the environment. This is just a disingenuous shell game under the guise of Fixing the Damn Roads with the added benefit of chasing businesses out of the state.

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:23am

Too many NO bid contractes given to Carlo by Engler and GrandMold and he was allow to use sub-standard materal by them!
Just look I-75 built in the 1960's just now needing to be rebuit,,, the Davison the first Express way in the USA,,, built in the 50's rebuilt a few years ago allready has pot holes.

Kevin Grand
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 7:26am

Since Gov. Whitmer hasn't spelled out HOW this money grab will be better spent under her watch, good luck getting Michigan Motorists to sign off on it.

Her Plan "B" better have some good budget cuts if she wants to spend that kind of money

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 9:13am

Guess you missed (or ignored) this:
'The $2.5 billion generated by the gas tax increase would be held in a new fund, to be distributed by road category and how heavily it’s used.'

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 1:48pm

Rick seems you missed it, she is actually taking away road money for her other wishes and then using the 45 cents gas tax to make it back up.

Kevin Grand
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 6:52pm

Do you honestly think that Act 51 will even be touched?

The odds of that happening are even less than this 45-cent/gal money grab after the flood of complaints the legislators are getting right now.

Making matters worse for her credibility, there's a clip of Candidate Whitmer gleefully dismissing the suggestion she would raise taxes if elected. She made it during last years gubernatorial campaign in Grand Rapids last year. It's getting an awful lot of play right about now.

I highly doubt that The Bridge will post it.

So here it is, anyway.

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 8:49am

How about some changes to the law that don’t cost taxpayers a cent, like revising truck weight limits downward, or taking a look at what certain types of truck suspensions do to the roads (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute), or better understanding of materials going into or under the roads. Even put some money toward better enforcement of weight limits on trucks would pay dividends. What happens to the intersection when a 13 axle truck lifts some of its wheels to make the turn?

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 9:44am

Freight policy (and more importantly enforcement) needs to be addressed, but doing so will not fix existing infrastructure.

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:46am

Can't help but think this is a trap. Voters will be more than a little annoyed come election time in 2020. They will lash out at whomever and as soon as they can they will vote out the culprits. Coincidently they will not have any of the new administration available to take it out on. Governor Whitmer will watch as incumbents get thrown out and replaced by a new Democrat controlled legislature. She will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 9:43am

The incumbents are going to be thrown out largely because the anti-gerrymandering law will have taken effect by 2020.

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 3:21pm

I bet they look forward to running against the gang that says "elect us, we will do what the governor wouldn't tell you when she ran and raise your gas taxes 45 cents. Bet that will work well in whatever districts they try to flip.

Ken Tokarz
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 11:12am

The Governor needs to start small, gain our trust that she has fixed the system that created this, start with a small project, succeed and go back to the legislator with a proven track record. Throwing a pot of our money at a problem has not worked in the past and will not work now.

Barry Visel
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 12:26pm

So, we need $2.5B/year to fix and maintain the roads, but once they’re brought up to standard we won’t need $2.5B ongoing. I would like to see a rollback time frame built into any legislative plan to implement her gas tax proposal.
I’m also concerned this is just the first of many tax or fee increase proposals. Still on the table: money for water, sewer and other infrastructure needs, along with issues such as unfunded retirement and health benefit liabilities. Where will that money come from?
And, what about that free tuition proposal?
We should insist on a complete budget plan so we have the whole picture before we approve anything.

John Galt
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 3:02pm

Taxing people into poverty

Gerry Donaldson
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 3:40pm

I find it interesting that republicans who have been in power for many years are now saying we can't increase taxes until we look for extra money from existing budgets. Does that mean they have been not monitoring where the money came from and where it goes during their tenure? If there is extra money available why did they not access it while they ruled supreme?

Melany Mack
Wed, 03/06/2019 - 6:04pm

Gov. Whitmer’s bold proposal for a hefty increase the tax on gasoline will raise the revenue needed to actually “fix the damn roads.” The response of many Republicans fits the classic definition of insanity: keep doing the same thing but expect different results. Republican policies and tax cuts resulted in systematic disinvestment in infrastructure and education over the past 25 years, yielding the abominable state of our roads and schools. Yet all many Republicans offer is more of the same, tired ideas. Laura Cox is particularly appalling. She says “the people of Michigan deserve real solutions on this critical issue, not a tax and spend solution.” We indeed do need a real solution, which the Governor has put forward. Cox offers no new ideas, she merely takes a cheap shot at the governor’s proposal. The Truth Tour Report stated that the top priority for Michigan residents was fixing hyper-partisanship so that the serious problems facing our state can be addressed. The response of many Republicans to Gov. Whitmer’s budget proposal shows they are obviously not listening.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 03/07/2019 - 6:30am

Um. Ms. Mack?

You DO know that it was the republicans who last raised the gas tax back in '15, right?

When you consciously make the decision to build roads that don't last more than two or three years, obviously they're going to need more funding.

Making matters worse, when people find out about this being nothing more than a shell game to fund Whitmer's OTHER priorities...well, 2022 doesn't look like a very good year for her.

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 1:36pm

And to think that then-candidate Whitmer said Schuette was being "ridiculous" when he said she supported a 20 cent gas tax increase during a debate.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 7:08am

Of course it was ridiculous.

It was ridiculous for B.S. to even suggest that Whitmer would aim so low.

Whitmer is aiming for the stands.

And with the shell game she is playing with the budget numbers, the entitlement crowd couldn't be any more happier.

Larry Shaheen
Fri, 03/08/2019 - 8:39am

1.3 billion was just spent in lame duck session three months ago where is return investment on that money just wasted, we the people are proud investors in a paddle boat one million, 10 million to a wealthy family for infastructure and so on .... Doesn't anyone else think that money should have been used for things higher on the to do list like roads, education, and so on. Nobody is held accountable for this, isn't anyone else tired of being the one left holding the bag, and fighting amongst ourselves solves nothing ...! DONATIONS everyone leave an extra buck when you fuel up or more if you can afford it, beats paying for car repairs.

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 9:18am

We currently devote about 3 percent of total state dollars to transportation. I'd like you all to look at the state expenditure pie chart. (google Michigan Welfare budget and it'll come up) 9 percent of funding goes to welfare (not counting health costs), 33 percent is labeled health cost , now this could include health costs coverage for state employees but I'm guessing it covers stuff like Medicaid and my healthy michigan as well. (this could be a federal cost sharing program, but it's still your tax dollars). 13 percent of the budget goes to government pensions. Pensions, not 401K, Not IRA but structured pensions that we in the private sector mostly all gave up in the 80's. So does anyone remember the old days when charities took care of the poor? Beneficiary societies and stuff like that? Churches? Why is this a cost of government?. If we were to cut welfare cost in half (the 9 percent of the budget, drop it to 5 percent or so. ) and took that money placing it into a productive infrastructure area (roads) it would double and almost triple the transportation budget. but instead we subsidize unwed teen births , generational welfare and suddenly decide that working at Mc donald's should pay 15 bucks for an entry level position so that person can afford to raise a family of 4 on an entry level salary. How about this idea , zip up your pants gentlemen and cross your legs ladies until you can afford to pay for your own kids...instead of asking government to subsidize poor choices, and demanding private industry raise food costs by needing to pay a Mcdonalds worker $15 an hour.. Oh by the way everyone thanks for helping pay for all the heat assistance programs across the state, remember it's a right for people to get free water and free heat and free food, and free this and that without cutting their cable or cell phone bills. Until the people that provide all that free stuff are sucked dry or decide to join in the frenzy and reduce their income level just enough to get on social assistance programs themselves..

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 9:30pm

I will truly be happy when everyone who thinks like you is gone. We might actually be able to salvage this decaying country

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 9:48am

I'll have "Mindless Stereotypes" for $100 please Tostyusingyourm...

Sat, 03/09/2019 - 2:19pm

Raise Tax’s!! I know it’s not popular but we need to fix so many things in this beautiful state. We’ve seen how letting low taxes affect how we live and it’s not a pretty picture. We can stand together people and pitch in to create a better place for our kids and draw new businesses here!!

Sat, 03/09/2019 - 8:44pm

Déjà vu. Wasn't there a gas tax hike about four years ago that was supposed to fix the roads? What happened?

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:14am

???? Did not the people of MI pass a law that NO taxes with our vote?????

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 10:41am

Infrastructure has been dramatically underfunded for years under Republican leadership. Finally, Gov Whitmer is telling it like it is. We would have $1B more to spend on roads and schools now if the lame duck Republican legislature had not spent it on pet projects in Dec 2018.

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 10:41am

Infrastructure has been dramatically underfunded for years under Republican leadership. Finally, Gov Whitmer is telling it like it is. We would have $1B more to spend on roads and schools now if the lame duck Republican legislature had not spent it on pet projects in Dec 2018.

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 3:12pm

Anyone who has driven on roads in Michigan and roads in Ohio knows that the Ohio roads are a dream compared to ours! Maintenance has clearly been a priority there. Continuing sources of funding are a problem though, and their state legislature is considering a gas tax. Their toll roads don’t generate sufficient funds.
If the folks who drive completely electric cars get a break, so be it. That might give a few souls the incentive to go electric. I would gladly pay more at the pump and avoid the accident dangers posed by potholes and the costs of repairing damage the physical damage they cause to my car.
There are other ways to raise the money, but our roads are so awful right now after years of budget cuts dur to tax “breaks” that we’re facing a monumental problem. I hope to see people offer up some real solutions in their suggestions here, because we cannot continue with our current crumbling infrastructure. Those here who just bashing teachers as the “problem” are a sorry bunch, indeed. Teachers and unions didn’t create this crisis.

Teresa Ross
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 9:32pm

Years ago John Engler wanted to raise the fuel tax to fix roads but the political types said it could be hazardous to his political career. So, instead the state borrowed a bunch of money by taking out bonds. They did a bunch of superficial resurfacing and some major road projects with this borrowed money. Then came Jennifer Granholm. She inherited a bunch of road projects, either started or promised. She needed funding for these projects, so she followed precedent, and borrowed money to finish these projects. Keep in mind that asphalt is good for around 7 years before it starts to degrade. Now after governor Granholm, we got Rick Snyder. He tried to raise the gas tax by putting it on the ballot, and tried to strong arm local government into pushing for it and some of the money in the new gas tax he wanted would be given to local government as revenue sharing. The measure was defeated at the ballot box. (The people wanted the gas tax to go to roads, go figure) now remember how the past 2 governors paid for road repairs. Our Lt. Governor was an investment banker and knew that the debt incurred by Engler and Granholm needed to be paid back, and the increased gas tax was going to pay the debt down, while providing money for road repairs (asphalt only lasts for 7 years without maintenance) and the new roads were getting in a state of disrepair. So the Snyder administration and legislature decided that they would raise the gas tax regardless of what the people wanted. This was probably not the smartest thing he did, but it had to be done. It would have been much better if he had made the gas tax big enough to both fix roads AND pay down the road debt, but it wasn't. Now we have a governor that is willing to gamble her political career and implement a tax big enough to do both. Kudos! And it is early enough in her governorship that people will be able to see the benefit prior to her next election. Good job Gretchen!

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 9:51am


Fri, 03/15/2019 - 2:44pm

True with a simple push of the button they can raise taxes and drive more jobs and people out of Michigan. Or they can actually or the hard work we pay them to do and stop the fraud, waste and abuse. I read a report that we waste nearly a billion ever year on illegals immigrants. That is a start.......