There’s no doubt about it: Michigan’s roads are noto­ri­ously bad. But a new state budget pro­posal by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is even worse.

If Whitmer has it her way, Michigan res­i­dents will face an addi­tional 45-cent tax at the gas pump in October to help fix the state’s roads. The cost would vary depending on the driver, the car model, and miles driven, but early esti­mates have the annual cost to tax­payers at $255.

According to the Federal Highway Admin­is­tration, Michi­ganders drive on average 14,121 miles per year. The average vehicle fuel economy for 2017 model vehicles was 24.9 miles per gallon, per the Envi­ron­mental Pro­tection Agency report released last week. Put those figures together and Michigan res­i­dents are left with an addi­tional $255, on top of the three dif­ferent taxes already required at the pump.

This pro­posal would give Michigan the highest fuel taxes in the U.S. Whitmer said the tax could bring in $2 billion annually for the state’s roads fund, but there’s no guar­antee that money would stay in said fund. As state Rep. Lee Chat­field (R-Lev­ering) wrote in an op-ed for The Detroit News, some of the money raised from the gax tax will inevitably be siphoned off for other pur­poses — such is the nature of bureau­cratic reg­u­lation.

Whitmer pulled this tax hike out of her pocket at the last minute. And iron­i­cally, she scoffed at the idea of a 20-cent gas tax during her guber­na­torial cam­paign last year. During a tele­vised debate, Whitmer’s Repub­lican opponent Bill Schuette accused her of advo­cating for a 20-cent gas tax.

“That’s ridiculous,” Whitmer replied.

“No it’s not,” Schuette said.

“It’s non­sense and you know it,” Whitmer con­tinued.

But after assessing alter­native options, Whitmer said she con­cluded that a tax hike — more than double what she orig­i­nally opposed — is Michigan’s best solution.

But what hap­pened to the 2015 road package? The state leg­is­lature approved several price hikes, including fuel and vehicle reg­is­tration fees, that would provide $1.2 billion each year for road funding. Though the plan won’t be fully ini­tiated until 2021, it was sup­posed to guar­antee the state $880 million this year alone. On top of that, the state leg­is­lature appro­priated surplus general funds for roads repairs, amounting to $357 million this year, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Whitmer’s addi­tional tax encourages inef­fi­cient and inef­fective gov­ernment. She’s right about one thing: Michigan’s state rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been irre­spon­sible. “Leaders haven’t been honest with us,” Whitmer said last week. “And they haven’t forged real solu­tions.”

But handing the leg­is­lature a bigger check won’t fix Michigan’s fiscal mis­man­agement or its roads. It’s time for our state rep­re­sen­ta­tives to step up and find a solution within existing funds.

Michigan’s roads won’t fix them­selves, but when it comes down to it, most tax­payers would rather swerve to avoid pot­holes than cut another check.

Kaylee McGhee is a George Wash­ington Fellow and a senior studying Pol­itics.


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Kaylee McGhee
Kaylee McGhee is a senior at Hillsdale College, majoring in Politics with a minor in Journalism. This is her fourth year writing for the Collegian and she serves as the paper's Opinions Editor. Kaylee worked in Washington D.C. last year and wrote for the Weekly Standard. Her work has also appeared in the Detroit News and the Orange County Register. Follow her on Twitter: @KayleeDMcGhee email:
  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    Hillsdale College should be focusing on the real reason that these problems exist — we are over­built due to the sub­urban devel­opment pattern. It is a growth-ponzi scheme, and we are now at the end of the road and the bills are coming due. Michigan, thanks to Detroit, is just ahead of the curve com­pared to every­where else.

  • Mitchell Robinson

    I teach college stu­dents, too…so I don’t want to be mean…but you need to ask for your money back for your poli-sci classes. “Michigan’s roads won’t fix them­selves, but when it comes down to it, most tax­payers would rather swerve to avoid pot­holes than cut another check.” Really? That’s your solution? Swerve, and look for the money in existing funds? The GOP has been in total control of the state for the last 8 years – why didn’t they do this if it was this easy, Kaylee?

    Lead­ership is about making tough deci­sions, not closing our eyes and hoping our problems mag­i­cally fix them­selves. That means raising rev­enues, paying our taxes, and doing our jobs.

    Not swerving.

    • All­hand­sondeck

      Thanks for that! Kaylee?

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Gretchen Whitmer lied about not raising taxes, you don’t get ethical lead­ership from people whose word is no good and whose promises are no good.

  • EBounding

    Cuts without new taxes will require sub­stantial cuts to Med­icaid and other depart­ments. Not even the most rock-ribbed con­ser­v­ative leg­is­lator will dare make that rec­om­men­dation though. They will just go on about how there is all this “waste”, without actually spec­i­fying any­thing. The end result is nothing will happen, but the gov­ernor will be the boogeyman the repub­lican base can direct their anger towards.

  • All­hand­sondeck

    Chat­field and the GOP — which handed out $1 million to the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in (cushy) Bay Harbor, MI., last year, and just announced another $1 million for McLaren Northern Hos­pital (board loaded, no doubt, with wealthy GOP donors?) — is shifting away from saying “more rev­enues are needed” to ‘lets find and elim­inate’ waste, fraud and abuse? Waste and what not that the Lee, the GOP and Rick Snyder? — for 8+ years? — missed? Lastly here are the facts: Michigan spends, less per capita, on roads than every other neigh­boring Mid­western state. Maybe editor Kaylee could look up that fact and confirm for us? And while she’s at it, maybe she can (1) Confirm that Logging and Farm Trucks were exempted, in 2015, from reg­is­tration fee hikes, and then (2) tell us who wrote that crony-cap­i­talism carve-out? Maybe Lee Chat­field can help her answer that last question?

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Like many of us sus­pected, Gretchen Whitmer’s first act out of the gate as Gov­ernor was to break her promise about not raising taxes. She lied, as we said she would.

    I expect the GOP con­trolled House and Senate to fight her tooth and nail on her pro­posed .45/gallon tax increase. The reality is, due to the improved business climate in Michigan from Trump’s economy, revenue has nat­u­rally increased. The Michigan gov­ernment has plenty more money to spend due to an increase in the number of tax­payers, increased wages and less folks on gov­ernment support pro­grams. WE DON’T NEED AN INCREASE IN TAXES, if any­thing a tax reduction might be con­sidered.

    Gretchen Whitmer by all appear­ances is another Jenni Granholm-who deserted Michigan after her 8 mean­ingless years in office and moved to Socialist Empire of Cal­i­fornia. Gov­ernor Whitmer has already assumed the smarmy attitude, con­de­scending nature and glib delivery of Granholm-it looks like 4 more years of no lead­ership from the Governor’s mansion. Until then, I expect the GOP to hold the line on taxes. Any­thing less than that and they get pri­maried out.