LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaigned heavily on fixing Michigan's roads, and now she's proposing a 45-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase to pay for the repairs.
During a debate while running for governor last year, Whitmer shot down claims that she would propose a gas tax.
"Gretchen Whitmer wants to have a 20-cent gas increase," Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette said.
"That's ridiculous," Whitmer said.
"No it's not," Schuette said.
"It's nonsense and you know it," Whitmer said.
"No, that's what you said," Schuette said.
It wasn't received particularly well by lawmakers when Whitmer proposed the gas tax increase while rolling out her budget plan.
Michigan residents are paying just over 57 cents a gallon in taxes right now, according to the Michigan Petroleum Association. Under Whitmer's new budget plan, they would pay $1.02 per gallon in taxes.
It would put $2.5 billion more per year into maintaining the state's roads.
"The simple truth is if we want to fix the damn roads, we must invest in our infrastructure," Whitmer said. "The goal is 90 percent of our roads good to fair."
The governor knows Michigan's road funding structure is an old and murky mess. A 7-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike in 2015 didn't solve the problem.
Whitmer is now going for it all at once, saying the state doesn't really have a choice.
"Right now we're doing about the worst way that you can because we're not funding," Whitmer said. "We're filling potholes and stealing money from other funds in order to fill potholes that don't actually fix the problem."
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, admitted the Democratic governor has a point about road funding.
"Anybody who thinks five decades of underinvesting in infrastructure can be done without raising some additional revenue is probably a bit delirious," Shirkey said.
He also believes the 45-cent increase is too high.
"It's not a good place to start," Shirkey said.
The speaker signaled a willingness to negotiate, but on day one of the often contentious process, Whitmer said she's willing to negotiate only on where the money will come from.
"If the majority leader, or anyone else for that matter, has a solution that gets us to that point, it still means we can pull a lever and fix all these problems," Whitmer said. "That's the goal here."
Whitmer proposed a 15-cent hike in October, another 15 cents in April 2020 and another 15 cents in October 2020. It's not dead on arrival, but the negotiations promise to be tough.