LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan House voted Thursday to dedicate $450 million a year more for road upkeep, which proponents called a long-overdue step while critics argued the money isn't nearly enough to fix the state's deteriorating transportation infrastructure.
The legislation, which heads to the Senate after solid bipartisan passage, would provide roughly a third of what Gov. Rick Snyder wants to bring roads and bridges up to par. Others think the funding increase should be $2 billion at a minimum.
"The complaints (that) it's not good enough, it's not enough, it's not perfect enough have kept the Legislature from acting for too long," said House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. "If this had been done in 1997, we wouldn't be debating a road problem today. Michigan citizens would be driving on smoother roads."
Most of the additional transportation funding would be diverted from the state's general fund, which funds prisons, public universities and other programs. But the Republican-controlled House also voted 85-24 to raise revenue by converting the state's 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax to one based on price while increasing the 15-cents-per-gallon diesel tax to the equivalent of 19 cents.
The 6 percent tax on wholesale fuel prices then could rise with inflation but not spike higher when gas prices jump. The state Treasury Department could increase tax rates to ensure fuel tax revenues are never less than in the 2014 base year.
The legislation partly is intended to address a constant frustration — that Michigan's gas taxes are among the highest in the nation while its per-capita transportation spending is among the lowest because the 6 percent sales tax on fuel primarily goes to schools and locals governments.
A bill approved 91-18 would keep education and revenue sharing to municipalities intact while sending $130 million per year in leftover sales tax collected at the pump to roads and bridges instead of the general fund. Another bill, also approved 91-18, would set aside a portion of the 6 percent use tax — which is applied to online and catalog purchases and hotel bills — solely for road and bridge projects.