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Commerce Township, Farmington Hills

February 8, 2013

Local reps discuss road tax, revenue plans

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

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Vehicles wait by the intersection of Maple and Orchard Lake roads in West Bloomfield. Some state lawmakers have been proposing ideas such as gas tax changes and increased vehicle registration fees to pay for statewide road and infrastructure repairs.

Some state politicians are proposing tax increases to pay for road repairs, but two local state representatives say they are waiting to hear more details before taking a stance.

During a Feb. 7 budget speech, Gov. Rick Snyder called for an additional $1.2 billion of annual spending on infrastructure including roads and bridges. He said road maintenance could create jobs and save lives and money in the long run — comparing it to changing the oil to avoid having to rebuild the engine later.

Snyder briefly alluded to changes in gas taxes and vehicle registration fees that state Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, recently proposed as possible ways to raise the funds. Kahn introduced bills that could raise vehicle registration fees by about 80 percent and replace the existing gas tax system with a wholesale tax.

Kahn has also floated an alternative option to hike the state sales tax from 6 percent to 8 percent in exchange of getting rid of the existing state gas tax.

State Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, declined to specifically support or oppose those tax ideas before studying them. But she said the matter is not as urgent as the governor believes, and she vowed to oppose any finalized proposal that hits the middle class disproportionately.

“I’ve got to see what the final bills look like,” she said. “At this moment, I am not inclined to promote proposals that disproportionately affect hard-working families and don’t ask corporations to pay their fair share.”

Barnett said she would like to see Michigan add a surcharge to the International Fuel Tax Agreement that would target out-of-state truckers who drive through Michigan but don’t fully pay for the use of Michigan’s infrastructure.

Barnett said the surcharge would compensate for the wear and tear that large trucks inflict on the roads, and she added that Michigan’s load limits for large trucks are more lenient than those in other states.

She said her proposal could raise between $75 million to $200 million per year, depending on the number of cents the surcharge would be.

“It would not come out of the paychecks of Michiganders but instead would come out of the hands of interstate truckers through the state,” she said.

State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, said he is waiting to see an actual policy proposal come out before he’ll support or opposes anything. But he said it’s important to keep all options open.

He also said the state might have to scour its budget for opportunities to save money and devote it to roads and infrastructure. He said he looks forward to seeing the budget in February.

“Maybe we have to look internally first,” he said. “And then I think, as a last resort, that we go to the taxpayers.”

Kesto predicted that a road-funding plan could come together over the next few months, calling it a “top priority.” In the meantime, he hopes that he will get a chance to hear from roads experts and fiscal policy experts.

Learn more about the Michigan Legislature at www.michigan.gov.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.