Written by Brett McRae, ECDP Chair
Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently conducted a presentation in Eaton County about her priorities in this year’s state budget. The session, held at Waverly High School on April 10, included both Democratic and Republican state and local elected officials and party leaders and other involved citizens.
The Governor outlined her plans to improve community water purity, boost schools and “fix the damn roads,” in her current budget proposal, which is being debated in the state legislature. She presented a series of charts and graphs showing the investment gap that has developed in recent years for schools, roads and other public works. By many measures, the Governor explained, Michigan has fallen behind most other states and needs to catch up.
Whitmer cited several independent studies showing the need to invest up to $2.5 billion annually in Michigan roads to bring them to an acceptable standard and to prevent further decay. Freeways, major state roads and many heavily-used local roads all need work soon, Whitmer explained, or the costs for repair will become much greater as the roads decay further.
Governor Whitmer outlined the different ways $2.5 billion could be raised. She has proposed increasing the per-gallon gas tax paid at the pump in three 15-cent increments over a year. Whitmer also proposes to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit and to eliminate the income tax on pensions to help working people and senior citizens to even out the costs of the gas tax increase.
Whitmer compared her proposal with other methods for raising the same amount, including raising the income tax from 4.25% to 5.3%, raising the corporate income tax from 6% to 19.5%, or increasing the sales tax from 6% to 7.4%.
The Governor pointed out that under the state constitution gas taxes must go directly to the state transportation fund, but income taxes and sales taxes can be diverted by the legislature to other purposes. By passing the gas tax increase, she suggested, citizens could be sure it would be used to fix the roads, not diverted to other pet projects. She also said that unlike other states, Michigan has not relied on high vehicle registration fees to fund roads, and she prefers to keep it that way.
Governor Whitmer took several questions from the audience. One person asked whether the revenue from legalized marijuana could be used to fix the roads. The Governor joked that she had heard the ‘pot for potholes’ proposal from many people across the state, but turning serious, pointed out that the revenues would be too small to make a difference.
Under the Governor’s proposal, the Eaton County Road Commission would receive an estimated $1.3 million in additional funding for local roads in 2020, and over $3 million more in 2121.
Eaton County citizens may weigh in on fixing the roads by contacting 71st District State Representative Angela Witwer, 65th District State Representative Sarah Lightner or 24th District State Senator Tom Barrett.