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State Senate Considers Road Funding Increase

Andrew Cluley

State Senate could triple road funding increase passed by House

The Michigan Senate could vote this week on bills that would increase state funding for roads by $1.3-1.4 billion a year. That's almost triple the amount recently approved by the state House.

Under the Senate plan, people would gradually pay more taxes at the pump over the next few years.

The proposal was brought to light the same day the Michigan Chamber of Commerce unveiled a poll suggesting most Michiganders are ready to pay more for better roads.

"The public has come out. They've said they're worried about the roads. They believed (we've) reached a crisis point and now is the time to act," said Jim Holcomb with the Chamber.

"What we do know is we need more money, and that does mean increased revenue," he said. "But this is a core function of government and we need to invest more in our infrastructure in Michigan."

But Tea Party and anti-tax groups are blasting the plan.

"They can't keep picking the pocket of Michigan taxpayers," said Scott Hagerstrom with Americans for Prosperity Michigan. "We already pay the fifth highest tax on gasoline in the country. And taking us to the highest isn't going to solve the problem, it's just going to make it so that politicians in Lansing don't have to make hard choices."

Hagerstrom says lawmakers should increase money for roads by taking it out of other areas of the state budget.

Some state transportation officials say it's not fair to say the state has the fifth highest gas tax in the country. They say that number includes the sales tax people pay at the pump, which is not used to pay for infrastructure.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he hopes to hold a vote on the road funding proposal by the end of this week.

Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.