by Tyler Arnold
Michigan House Republicans unveiled an infrastructure funding plan that would divert all revenue generated from sales taxes paid on gasoline purchases to fund road improvements, rejecting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to increase road funding through a 45-cent gas tax hike.
The Republican plan would provide about $800 million annually in additional funds for roads once fully phased in, which is far less than Whitmer’s plan crafted to generate about $2.5 billion.
“It’s our duty to do the best job we can to provide an effective, efficient and accountable state government with the money taxpayers already provide,” Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron (pictured above), said in a news release.
“We have gone through the budget line-by-line to find savings and set priorities that reflect what matters most to Michigan taxpayers and families,” Hernandez said. “That’s the approach we should take – rather than asking taxpayers for more money.”
Currently, the sales tax paid at the pump is used mostly to fund schools and local governments, rather than roads. Hernandez’s plan would divert all of this money to infrastructure, but would do so without sacrificing money for schools and local governments.
Money will be diverted back into schools and local governments through cuts in agencies’ administrative budgets and through other savings. Many departments are being asked to cut about three percent of their administrative spending and the Appropriations Committee found several programs that are receiving more money than they spend, and will receive lower budgets. The plan would also decrease spending on departments’ information technology by about 25 percent.
With the additional savings, the plan would also increase the minimum per-pupil education spending by $180. School districts who receive more than the minimum would see a $90 per-pupil increase.
Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesperson for the House Republicans, told the Center Square that all money paid at the pump should be used for road funding.
“The people of Michigan think that’s what’s happening, and are upset when they find out it isn’t,” he said via email. “If we keep siphoning off gas tax dollars, then raising the gas tax won’t fix the problem. We have to solve the root of the issue first.”
D’Assandro said that this legislation is the first step in the process for allocating funds for infrastructure, but will not be the only solution the caucus will bring forward.
James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told the Center Square the Republican plan maintains the principle of funding roads via a user fee, but does so without putting a greater burden on taxpayers.
“Road condition is projected to remain around the same without any additional funds, so finding more revenue will help put the state on course to improve quality,” Hohman said. “How much roads will improve depends on whether the costs of building and maintaining roads will continue to increase.”
Whitmer has previously threatened to veto legislation if she does not believe it raises enough funds to properly fix the roads.
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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia, Ohio and Michigan for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.