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Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to fix Michigan roads: Nearly triple gas tax

How much would a 45-cent gas tax cost you?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to nearly triple the state's gas tax to raise about $2 billion per year for roads. The 45-cent increase would bring Michigan's gas tax to 71.3 cents a gallon, the highest in the nation. Pennsylvania is now the highest at 57.6 cents per gallon. Here's a quick way to see how much more per week and year you'd pay if gas taxes rose 45 cents a gallon.

Added weekly cost: $ 
Added annual cost: $ 

July 2019: Republican ideas to fund Michigan road repairs taking shape over summer
June 2019: Here are 9 ways to build better roads in Michigan, from old tires to pig poop​
April 23: Michigan Senate panel rejects Whitmer gas tax, as budget dance continues

Analysis: Whitmer's budget banks on Michigan GOP backing one historic tax hike
Opinion: Hell no to Gov. Whitmer’s new taxes, says Sen. Peter Lucido 
Opinion: Everyone – not just drivers – should pay for Michigan roads

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to nearly triple Michigan’s gas tax, adding another 45 cents per gallon to fix the state’s roads, her administration confirmed Monday.

The proposal will come Tuesday as the Democratic governor unveils her first budget, which would need approval from the House and Senate, both controlled by Republicans. Fox 2 Detroit first reported initial details of the proposal on Monday afternoon.

The tax increase would come in three 15 cent-per-gallon installments, phased in every six months, Tiffany Brown, Whitmer’s press secretary, told Bridge Magazine.

The increase would be atop the state’s current tax of 26.3 cents per gallon, and if approved would give Michigan’s the highest gas tax in the nation, according to Bridge Magazine calculations.

“The governor has also included a plan/protections to help offset the cost to people’s pocketbooks,” Brown wrote in a text message.

Related: Six big proposals in Gretchen Whitmer’s first Michigan budget

More details — such as how much revenue the proposal would be expected to generate — will come Tuesday, budget office spokesman Kurt Weiss told Bridge.

But it’s believed the increase would generate about $2 billion, close to the amount of added annual revenue experts say is needed to meaningfully repair the state’s battered roads.

A spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield said the Levering Republican would refrain from commenting on the proposal until Tuesday.

Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Sen. Majority Leader Shirkey, said the Jackson Republican “would first like the governor to work with the Legislature to save families money by reforming car insurance.”

“Saving people money is the caucus priority before considering a gas tax increase,” she wrote in an email.

Less than two weeks ago, Shirkey did say that the state likely needed to spend more money on roads after Whitmer’s state of the state address. He wants to look within the budget for some money but also said new revenue was needed to address a roads problem “50 years in the making.”

Laura Cox, chairwoman of the state GOP, noted a “similar proposal” to raise money for roads was rejected in a landslide by state voters in 2015.  She said Whitmer’s proposal would “break many Michiganders’ budgets.”

May 31, 2019: See how much a 45-cent Michigan gas tax might cost you

“The people of Michigan deserve real solutions on this critical issue, not a tax and spend solution which places the burden on the states overtaxed families,” Cox said

Michigan's current gas tax rate is 25th highest in the nation but that doesn't include sales tax (6 percent). Only five other states levy sales tax against fuel ‒ Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Hawaii and West Virginia.

Whitmer’s plan would increase Michigan’s gas tax to 71.3 cents a gallon, well above the current highest, Pennsylvania, which tacks 57.6 cents to each gallon.

Among neighboring states, Michigan currently has lowest fuel tax, not including the sales tax, but not by much. Wisconsin is highest at 32.9 cents, then Indiana (29 cents) and Ohio (28 cents). But Republican Gov. Mike DeWine recently proposed an 18 cent increase in Ohio's fuel tax.

News of Whitmer’s proposed gas tax increase answers months of questions about how Whitmer plans to “fix the damn roads,” which became a rallying cry during her gubernatorial campaign last year against Bill Schuette, the former attorney general.

Whitmer’s plan follows years of calls to do more to fix Michigan’s roads, which are widely viewed as some of the worst in the nation. On Monday, the group Business Leaders for Michigan released a report calling Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges “a growing threat to our state’s economic vitality.”

“The deteriorating condition of Michigan’s roads poses huge challenges for our state’s future economic growth, not to mention and safety and overall quality of life,” Doug Rothwell, the group’s president, said in a news release.  

“With consistently poor ratings and the worst rankings in the U.S., Michigan’s infrastructure demands swift, bold solutions that are built to last.”

Whitmer's increase would cost another $225 per year for residents who drive 15,000 miles per year in cars that get 30 miles per gallon. Some studies suggest that's a fraction of the cost of auto repairs annually because of Michigan's lousy roads. 

By Whitmer's count, the average cost of roads-related repairs is $562 per motorist. Another company, TRIP, estimated it is closer to $865. 

Whitmer’s plan follows calls from one from a group of former lawmakers for a 10-year, 47 cent increase in fuel taxes –  roughly 5 cents a year for a decade – that would generate $2.6 billion a year when fully implemented.

Those protections did not account for automakers’ push toward hybrid and electric vehicles, which use less or no gasoline, or better vehicle fuel economy.

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