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.