On Detroit Today, Stephen Henderson speaks with Michigan Senate Minority Leader, Jim Ananich, to discuss the 15-cents-per-gallon gas tax proposal that the Republican-led senate will vote on sometime this week. They say the proposal would increase the gas tax for the first time since 1997 in order to raise over a billion dollars to fund Michigan’s road repairs while also making cuts to the state’s income tax, redirecting other state tax dollars, and eliminating the earned income tax credit. The main points they discuss:
- The wrong direction: Ananich says he thinks this proposal fails on all fronts and is a backwards step for Michigan instead of allowing it to become, as he calls it, “a 21st century state.” He says the state needs a comprehensive long-term solution to the state’s roads problem that doesn’t ride on the backs of working-class and poor citizens. He says Michiganders “need a solution where everyone feels a little pain” and doesn’t contribute to the growing income gap between classes. He is hopeful that the state senate can come up with a better plan that is more bipartisan to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads. He says telling the public what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear is important because maintaining a fair road as fair is much less expensive then making a poor road good. He says it will be a while before the general state the roads improves dramatically.
- Short-term solution: According to Ananich, a possible short-term solution to this issue would be to change the way Michigan distributes the money to repair roads across the state. He says that the state currently allocates road funds based not on repair need but on miles of road. Thus, he says, a lot of money goes toward roads north of the Bay City area that don’t require as many repairs. He says the state needs to change this formula around in order to have funding go where the majority of people live and where commerce takes place.
- Pot for potholes: A caller raises the question of the idea to legalize marijuana and tax its sale. Ananich agrees that this is a good idea saying that as gas taxes are slowly becoming obsolete due to the production of more efficient cars and electric cars, etc., the “pot for potholes” idea makes sense. He says such a plan could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state if marijuana was taxed.
- Other solutions: Ananich, Stephen, and callers discussed several other possible solutions to Michigan’s road funding issues. Ananich says a progressive income tax would be a much fairer way to raise money, putting less burden on the poor and middle class. Callers express interest in ideas such as a road-specific lottery and a 1-cent sales tax increase.
To listen to the full conversation, click the audio link above.