Whitmer makes case to fix Michigan roads, boost education funding

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Whitmer took the stage at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Thursday to make her case for her budget proposal to fix the roads and to boost education funding in the state.

Back in March, Whitmer unveiled her proposal to fix the roads with a 45-cent increase in the gas tax, which would make Michigan's fuel tax the highest in the U.S. She also proposed a $507 million increase in state K-12 classroom spending.

Related: Why doesn't Michigan have toll roads?

Michigan's Republican-led Legislature has said they won't support the tax increase. Senate Republicans plan to outline an alternative road-funding plan this summer.

The $2.5 billion plan would increase the 26-cent fuel tax by 45 cents between this October and October 2020 and guarantee that the additional revenue is targeted to more heavily traveled roads. To alleviate the burden for some motorists, she proposed a tax overhaul under which retirees and low-income earners would get breaks while more businesses would pay a 6 percent tax instead of the lower 4.25 percent personal income tax.

On Thursday, Whitmer said the $2.5 billion per year in funding is needed for Michigan to achieve 90 percent functional roads. Right now, the state is at 78 percent.

Whitmer said the condition of Michigan bridges "keep her up at night," noting out of 11,000 bridges in the state, 1,000 have weight restrictions, 800 are in poor condition.

"In Livonia Public Schools, buses use bridges more than 600 per day," Whitmer said.

Whitmer also pointed out that increasing the gas tax is the only way to get to the $2.5 billion needed, noting that Michiganders would have to consume $2,500 in marijuana every year to raise that amount in taxes. 

"And at that level, no one would even care about the roads," Whitmer joked.

On education, Whitmer offered statistics that show Michigan is dead last in the U.S. in fourth grade reading proficiency growth in the last 20 years.

“The greatest investment in our kids in a decade is what this budget is about," Whitmer told the Mackinac crowd.

Watch the full interview in the video player above. Get the latest news from the Mackinac Policy Conference here.

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