Apr 5, 2007

Senator again pits Detroit against the rest of the state as reason for opposing gas tax increase

I thought I would put in my 2 cents – nine actually – on the bipartisan proposal from the Michigan House to raise the gas tax from its current 19 cents a gallon up to 9 cents over three years now that my local lawmakers have given us their opinion in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

They are, of course, against it. It makes you wonder if the Republicans ever met a tax they wanted to pay or if they understand the good invest ting in the state does for all residents.

I support a small gas tax to maintain the roads and infrastructure that really attracts and retain business and companies to the state, but not now with the current budget shortfall and with gas at $2.85 a gallon. I don’t support going as high as 9 cents, nor do I support the outrageous hike in the vehicle registration fee. Gas tax is a user fee, and it makes sense for the people who use the roads more to pay more.

The gas tax was last raised 4 cents in 1997, but Michigan is near the bottom on the amount of money it spends on roads. It ranks 42nd, and the gas tax is the largest single funding source for making improvements to and maintenance of Michigan roads.

According to the nonpartisan national Tax Foundation, Michigan’s 19 cents a gallon puts us 29th in the country. Florida is at 50th with just 4 cents a gallon, but they don’t get the freeze and thaw cycle and salt that wrecks havoc on the roads. The highest gas tax is paid by a state we compete with directly for jobs in the Midwest, Wisconsin at 32.9 cents a gallon. Ohio ranks 5th at 28 cents, and we are tied with Illinois at 19 cents.

I find myself in rare agreement with Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, who said he supports an increase in the diesel tax, which has not seen an increase in years. The diesel tax rate is 15 cents a gallon, one of the lowest in the nation, according to statistics from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The huge, semi-trucks do a lot more damage to the roads than passenger cars.

The most ridiculous reasons for opposition comes from Sen. Valde Garcia. Garcia said the proposal wouldn't increase Livingston County's road-funding coffers.

"I doubt that it would help us other than from an overall standpoint that there would be more money available. In this (Gov. Jennifer Granholm) administration we have seen money move away from this county," he said.

So he’s blaming the Democratic Governor? Is anyone really surprised that’s who he would blame? So when we had a Republican governor, Livingston County should have seen the road money flowing in. We didn’t. It was just a few short years ago that we had a Republican President, a GOP U.S. House and Senate, A GOP Governor, a GOP Michigan House and Senate, our Senator and two state Representatives were Republicans and the entire Board of Commissioners were Republicans. It would seem the road money should have been rolling in. That was not the case.

Then Garcia - as well as Bill Johnston, head of something called “Concerned Taxpayers Group of Livingston County” - pull out the old standby and race card of blaming Detroit for the problem and pitting Detroit against the rest of the state.

While unsure if Livingston County receives its fair share of gas tax dollars, Garcia noted that Macomb and other southeast Michigan counties seem to have an easier time launching road projects.
If the proposal prevails, more gas tax dollars will continue to be dedicated to failing roads in Wayne County and the eastern Detroit suburbs than in Livingston County, Johnston said.

Garcia goes on to falsely claim that we are over taxed, ignoring the fact that taxes have been cut every year for the last 15 years, and we have less state employees now then we did in 1973.

"People are sick and tired of seeing their taxes raised," he said.

But don’t worry; Garcia said “he's preparing an alternative proposal for road funding that doesn't entail an increase in the state gas tax. He declined to elaborate on his plan until the state Senate reconvenes later this month.”

Ah, another secret Senate Republican plan. They are getting so good at keeping secrets and coming up with secret plans. Remember how well that secret budget plan went?

It makes more sense to approve the 2-penny tax on services before we even talk about an increase in the gas tax.


Rybu said...

Its nice to not see blind opposition. It seems that your point is well thought out which is more than I can say for many.

If a full 9 cent increase along with bringing the diesel tax up to par isn't passed it may be a problem. A small increase will make the public (and congresses) think "we passed a gas tax you have your money now go away". This is what happened in 1997 and we are paying for it now.

The increased revenue from the proposals would only maintain our system as well, not necessarily improve it. WHile this would provide some economic benefits, we would need even more to get a real positive cost/benefit ratio.

You cite the gas tax as a user fee which is exaclty the case. Think about the cost relative to other things. Think how much we all rely on the transportation system, the freeways, local street everything, to get to work, to the store, to have our mail delivered. Now think about how much of a USER fee you pay. Maybe three hundred or so in vehicle registration on a 20k car and state tax. We also need this money to make sure we can match all the federal dollars that come in. An 80/20 federal matching program does nothign for us if we can't come up with the 20 percent.

Sorry for the length. Being in the transportation planning profession I am somewhat passionate about this issue.

I've written/vented some more on my blog if you're interested.


Anonymous said...


Communications guru said...

Good post, Rybu. You made some very good points, but I am still not convinced we need an increase now or as high as 9 cents.

As for anonymous, do you know your caps lock button is stuck? I certainly hope you don’t type like that on purpose. It’s annoying, and it does nothing to help get your point across.

Like I said before, I’m not 100 percent convinced the tax should be increased now or as high as 9 cents, but it most definitely needs to be increased. Have you driven in Michigan lately?

As for going to other states just to buy gas, that’s ridiculous. The closest states, Ohio and Wisconsin, have higher gas taxes, and they will remain higher or as high even if all of the phased increase is approved. In fact, Wisconsin has the highest gas tax in the entire nation. You could go to Illinois or Indiana, which is currently the same and one penny less. But that would only apply to a small section of southwest Michigan.