LANSING — Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a 45-cent increase in Michigan’s gasoline and diesel taxes to fixed the roads, WILX-TV reported, a plan expected to be phased in later in 2019 and into next year.
Whitmer presented the plan as part of her first executive budget to a joint session of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees here.
The proposal is expected to raise an estimated $2 billion, which is similar to the $2.2 billion plan then-governor Rick Snyder recommended two years ago. The money would go toward much-needed bridge and road work in the state.
Whitmer said she wants to no longer divert up to $600 million from general funds to the transportation budget going forward, making the net increase in spending for roads $1.9 billion, WILX reported.
In addition to the gas tax, Whitmer proposed repealing a 2011 law that eliminated or reduced exemptions from the taxation of pension and other retirement income, which is predicted to save hundreds of thousands of families an average of $800 each year.
She also proposed doubling the earned income tax credit for low-income earners from 6 percent of the federal credit to 12 percent, phased in over two years.
The gas tax will be phased in slowly, up 15 cents in October, an additional 15 cents in April 2020 and a final increase of 15 cents in October 2020. Currently, the tax is 26 cents per gallon.
Whitmer’s budget proposal also included funding programs to ensure Michiganders have clean air and drinking water.
In response to the proposed changes, The Michigan League of Conservation Voters and Michigan Environmental Council applauded her.
“Gov. Whitmer today rightly used her first budget to reinforce that clean water is a fundamental Michigan value,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
“We urge the Legislature to join her in removing lead pipes, cleaning up toxic PFAS chemicals, expanding public health programs and making sure every child has access to safe drinking water at their school. None of these issues are partisan, but all of them impact Michigan’s economy and the health of our citizens.”
Michigan Environmental Council Deputy Director Sean Hammond also praised Whitmer.
“Gov. Whitmer is showing the residents through her budget recommendations that public health and the environment are not just talking points, but priorities for her administration,” he said.
Whitmer faces criticism for alleged campaign reversal
Despite the approval from many of her colleagues and environmental organizations, criticism has been leveled at Whitmer over her dismissal of opponent Bill Schuette’s warning in a gubernatorial debate last year.
Schuette said that Whitmer would increase the gas tax by 20 cents, which Whitmer decried as “ridiculous” and “nonsense.”
“How can you explain a 45-cent tax increase today?” Rep. Matt Maddock asked Whitmer’s budget director after pointing to her debate comments. The conservative Michigan Freedom Fund accused Whitmer of lying on the campaign trail, an AP report said.
“We thought (a) user fee that is actually the right size to fix the problem was the way to go,” she told reporters, denying that she broke a campaign pledge. “My campaign promise was to fix the damn roads. This plan does that.”