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Michigan Senate passes fuel tax holiday bill

An arm holds a gas dispenser into a car's gas tank. Out of focus in the background is a teal gas pump.
Erik McLean
Michigan's Senate is pushing forward a bill to create a six-month break from gas taxes.

The Michigan Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would create a six-month fuel tax holiday from April through September.

But HB 5570 did not reach the two-thirds majority threshold required to give the bill immediate effect. That means it couldn’t go into effect until next year, making it largely symbolic.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer had called for the federal government to suspend its fuel tax last week as a way to respond to rising gas prices partially due to sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he was following her lead.

“We can’t have any control over that, but if it’s important enough to ask the feds to do it, [it] must be important enough to do here, and we have complete control of doing that. And so, that’s why we made that move,” Shirkey told reporters after Tuesday’s session.

Late last week, Whitmer strongly hinted that she would veto the bill if it were to make it through the state Senate. The House passed it last week.

Critics claim the legislation would do too much damage to state funding for road repairs.

“By halting the projects designed to fix our longtime D-rated crumbling roads and bridges, we are still impacting the costs that the residents who drive will incur,” Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) said.

Democrats attempted to amend the bill five times ahead of Tuesday’s Senate vote. Some would have tied it to other priorities like tweaks to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance changes. Each amendment failed.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said the state would be better off not charging sales tax on gas instead of suspending the fuel tax.

“It doesn’t affect services. It actually is more relief for families. And if we get the federal pause, which I hope we do -- and I hope we continue to push for it together as both Democrats and Republicans -- we could have between 40 to 50 cents at the pump, and I think that’s a much better way of going without having to put our road funding in jeopardy,” Ananich said.

He said he’s not sure when he’d finish drawing up a bill to introduce in the state Senate. But, upon hearing of concerns that ending sales tax collection on gas could hurt the state’s School Aid Fund, Ananich said he’d be open to suggestions and changes.

Shirkey seemed ready to endorse a proposal to end that sales tax on gas permanently.

“It’s just been a dumb tax since day one. And yes, Sen. Ananich and I have been talking about it. And I’m encouraged by what he and I have talked about. And I’m anxious to get the rest of [legislative leadership] together to move this forward,” Shirkey said.

He said a bill to remove sales tax on gas collection “has potential” to move with the same speed as HB 5570, which would create the state fuel tax holiday.

It’s unclear where Whitmer stands on the sales tax proposal.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified Sen. Geiss as being from Detroit. She is from Taylor.

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