Michigan road funding: Americans For Prosperity launching 'Don't raise MI taxes' statewide tour
Friday, April 19, 2013
LANSING, MI -- Americans For Prosperity-Michigan, the state chapter of the national conservative advocacy group, is fighting proposals by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers to boost road funding through increased taxes or fees.
Director Scott Hagerstrom this week announced plans for the "Don't Raise MI Taxes" tour, which will include 13 stops around the state designed to rally opposition to various tax-related road funding plans percolating in Lansing.
"Raising taxes on Michigan's families shouldn't even be an option on the table," Hagerstrom said in a release. "It is time for state government to start living within its means, just as Michigan families have had to."
It's not the first time Americans For Prosperity, founded with support from the Koch Brothers, has been at odds with Michigan's first-term Republican governor. The group previously fought Snyder's plan to build a new Detroit-Windsor bridge and currently is opposing his proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility using federal funding through the Affordable Health Care Act.
AFP-Michigan, along with Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, also supported last year's statewide ballot proposal that would have required a 2/3 supermajority in the legislature on any bill to raise taxes. Snyder opposed the measure, and voters defeated it by a wide margin.
The "gas tax townhall" meetings will begin next with two events in Metro Detroit and continue through the end of May, ending with two stops in West Michigan.
Meanwhile, a coalition of businesses, trade associations and labor unions has already launched a statewide media campaign with direct message for Lansing: "Just fix the roads."
The Michigan Transportation Team does not back any specific funding plan but argues that failure to fix Michigan roads now will result in higher long-term costs for the state, less safe roads and more vehicle repair costs for motorists.
"This is a discussion about saving money and saving lives," said Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, which represents construction trade groups in Lansing. "I think we have to come to a solution. More needs to be invested in our system, and we're hopeful the legislature will take care of this in short order."
The MTT media campaign includes radio ads, television spots and a total of 21 billboards located in West Michigan, Metro Detroit, Lansing and other parts of the state. The coalition also has posted advocacy videos on Youtube and recently concluded a "Pothole Pocketbook Contest" that helped winning motorists pay for pothole-related vehicle repairs.
Snyder, in his state of the state address, proposed increasing road funding by $1.2 billion a year through a combination of increased gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees. By raising $12 billion over the next 10 years, he said, the state could avoid a $25 billion repair bill while creating jobs.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle initially raised concerns about the proposal, and Snyder challenged them to present alternative ideas. He has been meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders in hopes of finding common ground.
A new plan taking shape in the state House, spearheaded by Republican Rep. Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City, is expected to include increased gasoline taxes and registration fees. The proposal also would exempt fuel purchases from the state's six percent sales tax, which is collected at the pump but is not used to fix roads.
Most Michigan sales tax is used to fund K-12 education and municipal revenue sharing. Exempting fuel would create a large hole for schools and cities, which Schmidt acknowledged would require additional discussions about making up that funding.
House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, signaled support for the plan on Thursday, telling reporters that the legislature must "be committed to solving the full problem," including making sure that all taxes paid at the pump go toward roads.
Nystrom, who has lobbied for new road funding at recent committee hearings, said he believes that increased taxes will be part of the eventual solution, but he said the coalition is happy to engage in a dialogue with AFP-Michigan.
"If they have a better way of fixing the roads, we'd certainly be interested in hearing about it," he said. "And I hope while they're out on tour, they don't hit any potholes."