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Michigan Senate rejects tax hike for road repairs

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 11, 2014 at 11:26 pm •  Published: June 11, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Multiple efforts in the state Senate to increase Michigan's gasoline tax were defeated Wednesday, as lawmakers worked into the night to try to find a solution to help improve deteriorating roads with one day left before the Legislature adjourns for much of the summer

Senators late Wednesday fell short of the votes needed to move forward with legislation to more than double the 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax within five years. They also could not muster enough support to switch from a flat per-gallon tax to one that would fluctuate with price changes to at least keep revenue in line with inflationary construction costs.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said at least $1.3 billion more per year is needed at a minimum to bring roads up to par or else the system will fall further into disrepair.

Senators were still meeting in Lansing early Thursday morning and could vote again on the gas tax.

Earlier, they soundly defeated a proposal that would have let voters raise the 6 percent sales tax to 7 percent and dedicate the extra revenue to transportation if they did not like the gas tax hike. The proposed state constitutional amendment won 14 votes, far short of the 26 needed in the 38-member Senate.

A vote on the gasoline tax would require a simple majority vote, instead of the two-thirds threshold needed to amend the sales tax.

The bill — linked to a tax reduction for homeowners and renters — would increase the gas tax to roughly 41.5 cents within five years, if fuel prices stay flat. The tax could rise or fall no more than 5 percent in future years to account for any major year-to-year fluctuations in price.

If the gas tax increase wins approval in the Senate, its fate could be uncertain in the House a day before lawmakers plan to break before August's primary election. The House last month passed a more modest $450 million increase in road and bridge spending that mostly diverts money from elsewhere in the budget, yet Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said she doubts the Senate would have started to move ahead without assurances its plan could pass in the House.

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.

Some senators had preferred giving voters opposed to the gas tax hike the option of instead increasing the sales tax in the November election.

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