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Associated Press: Lawmakers propose raising fuel tax to repair state's roads

Thursday, January 28, 2010   (0 Comments)
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Two state lawmakers on Tuesday proposed higher taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to raise money for Michigan's road system. 


The bills are the latest attempt to raise more road money and prevent Michigan from losing federal matching money for road construction because the state doesn't spend enough of its own money on projects. 


The bills would raise the state's 19-cent per gallon gas tax to 23 cents this year and to 27 cents in 2013. Michigan's 15-cent per gallon diesel tax would increase to 21 cents this year and 27 cents in 2013. 


It's estimated the measures would raise an additional $480 million a year in state revenue once fully implemented. The additional money would be put into a fund exclusively for roads and transportation projects with the state, counties and some local governments getting shares. Recipients would have to report how the money was spent. 


Most lawmakers agree Michigan's roads and bridges need more attention, particularly as potholes pop up in winter and some counties opt to turn previously paved roads back to gravel because they're running short on money. But proposals to raise significantly more money for Michigan roads have fizzled in recent years in large part because of opposition to tax increases. 


Matt Marsden, a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, said he expects Republican lawmakers will remain skeptical of proposals to fix roads with higher taxes. 


But lawmakers backing the new bills say Michigan residents clearly want better roads, and they worry the state's crumbling highways will drive away tourists and slow economic development. 


"We really need to do something right now," said Rep. Richard Ball, R-Laingsburg, a sponsor of the bipartisan legislation. "This would provide some money at all levels for some road repairs that are desperately needed." 


The Democratic sponsor of the House legislation is Rep. Pam Byrnes of Lyndon Township in Washtenaw County. 


"This is a matter of doing what's right for Michigan drivers, businesses and taxpayers," Mike Nystrom of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association said in a statement.


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