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Senate Democrats do not support plan to fix roads

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

It looks like efforts to boost state road funding by about $1.4 billion may have stalled in the state Senate. That’s after Senate Democrats came out against the plan because it would significantly increase the state’s gas tax.

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, says increasing the amount people pay at the pump would disproportionately hurt the poor.

“After three years of a continuous shift of taxes from the business community onto people, we’re worried that this represents another massive tax increase that is going to be borne by individuals more than anybody else,” said Whitmer. “And we need to know that there are protections for the people that are going to struggle the most with this.”

In committee, Democrats offered language that would restore tax credits for the working poor, raise the minimum wage, and end state taxes on retiree pensions. Whitmer says those are things that would win Democratic support for the Senate’s road funding plan.

“I think (Senate Republican leaders) have done the math and figured out that they’re going to need support on both sides of the aisle. And so, I would anticipate some discussions materializing relatively soon.”

“It’s going to be a bipartisan package or it’s not going to happen,” said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.

Richardville says he’s confident Republican leaders can reach a deal with Democrats. He hopes to hold a vote on the road funding plan early next week.

The Senate’s road funding package would tax gasoline based on price instead of the number of gallons pumped. Eventually, it could more than double the amount people pay at the pump in gas taxes. That increase would be phased in over five years.

The proposal would also end annual decreases in the amount people pay for vehicle registration fees.

The Senate legislation would more than triple the amount of money approved earlier this month by the state House for roads and infrastructure.