LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature adjourned late Thursday for much of the summer without voting to pump more money into road improvements after election-year talks broke down over a gradual gasoline tax increase.
Senators a day earlier had balked at a major plan to more than double fuel taxes over five years to raise at least $1 billion to fix deteriorating roads and bridges. An attempt to pass a more modest proposal to boost fuel taxes to keep pace with inflationary road construction costs never gained muster in the Republican-controlled Senate Thursday despite a similar plan winning bipartisan support in the GOP-led House last month.
Legislative leaders said they would study the issue over the summer and take it up again in the fall. Michigan spends less per driver on roads than any other state, yet also has some of the country's highest taxes at the pump because the sales tax applied to motor fuel mostly goes to schools and local governments under the state constitution.
The scaled-back plan would have let the 19-cents-a-gallon gas tax rise each year by whatever is less — 5 percent or the annual change in highway construction costs. The tax would have been capped at 32 ½ cents a gallon.
It would not come close to raising the minimum $1.2 billion to $2 billion more a year that Gov. Rick Snyder and others say is needed now to bring the transportation system up to par.
Lance Binoniemi, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, a construction trade association, said the scaled-back plan "would not have done anything, really. You're not repairing any roads on that."
He said if the Senate had passed its original proposal, "We could have put people to work and could have put more projects on the ground and really slowed the deteriorating of roads."
Snyder, a Republican, said he would not have been satisfied with the alternate plan as a long-term solution but saw it as a positive step to help address the structural problem of declining gas taxes — caused by people driving less and with more fuel-efficient cars. The per-gallon gas tax was last increased, by 4 cents, in 1997.
"There's just more work to be done," Snyder said after lawmakers adjourned, a blow to advocates of more transportation spending who believe the public's openness to paying higher taxes increased when roads became peppered with potholes after the severe winter.