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Marathon gas station on West Car­leton. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

Michigan drivers won’t see an increase in gas prices at the pump just yet as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pro­posed 45-cent tax increase has been stalled. 

The con­tro­versial tax hike made national head­lines as it would give Michigan the highest gas taxes in the nation.

Hillsdale College eco­nomics pro­fessor Charles Steele warns against this tax and its impli­ca­tions for Michi­ganders. 

“The tax would have some pretty neg­ative con­se­quences,” Steele said. “It tends to be pretty regressive, so it hits poorer people harder than anyone else.”

The effects hit espe­cially hard in areas like Hillsdale that are close to other states. 

“There will be eco­nomic dis­lo­ca­tions along the borders,” Steele said. “People in any of the border states will have a tax of about 30 cents a gallon, whereas ours will be over 70 cents.”

The pro­posal was intro­duced as a part of Whitmer’s sug­gested state budget. 

The deadline for this year’s budget approval is Oct. 1. If the leg­is­lature fails to come up with an approved budget, the state could face a gov­ernment shutdown. 

With this looming deadline in sight, Whitmer announced she will relent on the highly-con­tested gas tax for the sake of the overall budget. 

“We have all agreed to con­tinue con­ver­sa­tions about road funding in a mean­ingful way and table all asso­ciated issues for the time being,” Whitmer said in a joint statement with GOP members Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chat­field. “Right now, our number one pri­ority is getting a budget passed. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and nego­ti­ating on behalf of the people of Michigan.”

With the gas tax side­lined, nego­ti­ating and voting on the budget is the main focus for the Michigan leg­is­lature in the next two weeks. 

Shirkey is a major voice against the tax hike and is advo­cating for road repairs in the new budget. 

“Our budget will include $500 million more for roads, without raising taxes,” Shirkey said in a press release on Sep­tember 6. “We are building upon the promise we made to tax­payers to find money within our existing budget to fund one of our major pri­or­ities: roads.”

Rep. Eric Leutheuser of Hillsdale is working to find a budget both sides will support. 

“We had a number of pro­posals that we pre­sented to the gov­ernor behind closed doors this summer,” Leutheuser said. “Some of them were quite sig­nif­icant and showed good faith and would have gone a long way to making the roads a greater pri­ority going forward.”

Whitmer has failed to show interest in any of these pro­posals from Repub­lican law­makers. 

Leutheuser said he is com­mitted to solving the road issues beyond the 2020 fiscal year budget. 

“Not only are we going to show in this budget a real sig­nif­icant investment in the roads, but we are willing to have a con­ver­sation after this process is done for a long- term solution,” Leutheuser said. “A long-term solution accounts for the fact that fuel con­sumption may decline, one that looks at a ballot pro­posal that ded­i­cates sales tax revenue to roads, maybe one that has some tax relief in the form of lower reg­is­tration fees”

Repub­lican law­makers in Michigan are cur­rently working on a budget that can improve roads and appeal to the gov­ernor and her party. 

Leutheuser wants his con­stituents and the people of Michigan to know that the law­makers are looking for the best option. 

“The state has had a lot of fiscal dis­ci­pline with former Gov­ernor Snyder,” Leutheuser said. “We’re going to be very careful to make sure we have a fis­cally sound budget going forward. We want to keep Michigan on the path of paying down debt and preparing for the future so over time the state becomes a more attractive place to live and raise a family.”