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Road construction industry to launch ads backing higher gas taxes, vehicle fees

Friday, January 18, 2013   (0 Comments)
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From The Detroit News:


Lansing — Michigan's road construction industry is planning to spend up to $600,000 this winter on a statewide advertising campaign to build public support for increasing taxes and vehicle registration fees to pay for highway improvements.


Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, said Friday the ad campaign will focus on how repairing pockmarked roads will save motorists money in vehicle repairs and save lives through fewer accidents blamed on poor road conditions. A coalition of labor unions, agriculture and business interests called the Michigan Transportation Team has planted a mobile billboard outside the state Capitol with a picture of a gaping pothole promoting a website,


Gov. Rick Snyder has called on the Legislature to hike vehicle registration fees and gasoline and diesel taxes to raise an additional $1.2 billion annually for maintenance and upkeep of state, county and local roadways. The state spends about $3 billion a year on road work.


Nystrom said fixing the state's crumbling roads should be a top priority for Republicans and Democrats. But Democrats have been cool to the idea of helping Snyder raise the gas tax and vehicle fees after Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a right-to-work law in December.


"I think that's pretty short-sighted on their part," Nystrom said Friday during a taping of WKAR's "Off The Record." The show airs this weekend on public television stations.


On Thursday, Snyder told The Detroit News Editorial Board he supports allowing voters to decide whether they want to pay higher "user fees" or raise the sales tax by 2 cents, dedicate the money for roads and eliminate per-gallon state fuel taxes. But the Legislature would first need to approve increasing vehicle fees and changing the gas tax from a cents-per-gallon levy to a percentage tax that could raise more revenue over time, Snyder said.


Some Republican lawmakers have suggested they might have to let Democrats pass one of their initiatives in exchange for getting their votes to raise road revenues.


One idea floating around Lansing is to increase the earned income tax credit for low-wage workers, a top priority for Democrats after the GOP majority greatly reduced the refundable credit in 2011.


Snyder, a businessman-turned-politician, has said he doesn't engage in political horse trading. But Nystrom said the governor may have to change his approach if he wants to raise more money for roads.


"I think on this he's going to have to recognize it's going to have to happen," Nystrom said.


Michigan road quality is among the worst in the nation, ranked 38th among the 50 states by the Federal Highway Administration.


The Legislature last increased the 19-cents-per-gallon by four cents in 1997, but revenues have been on a 10-year decline because motorists are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and fewer road miles, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.


The Michigan Transportation Fund, a collection of motor fuel taxes and vehicle title and registration fees, has seen an 18.8 percent decline in inflation-adjusted revenue since the 2006 fiscal year, according to a September 2012 report conducted by the Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing.

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