Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s roads tax plan got a warm reception last week at a Detroit Regional Chamber luncheon and now the group is making it official.
The chamber on Wednesday said it’s endorsing Whitmer’s plan to hike the gas tax 45 cents starting Oct. 1 to raise $2.5 billion to fix Michigan’s roads. The governor announced her proposal this month as part of her fiscal year 2020 budget.
That’s a high-profile endorsement for Whitmer, who has faced fierce opposition from Republicans and a milquetoast response from Democrats. She’s been traveling across the state this month trying to drum up support for her proposal.
“The Detroit Regional Chamber supports the Governor’s proposal to address the road funding crisis by generating $2.5 billion annually in new funding with the preferred source being a gas tax or other user fee,” President and CEO Sandy Baruah said in a statement. “The Chamber looks forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to finalize the mechanism to achieve this goal.”
However, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) aren’t on board. At the event last week, Baruah told reporters “there is a growing split between the Republican legislators and the business community.”
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which also favors the user fee approach for roads, is typically on the same page with Republicans. CEO Rich Studley issued a measured tweet last week encouraging both sides to work together because “doing nothing is not an option.”
🚧 Michigan has the worst roads in the country. Doing nothing is not an option & going further into debt is a bad idea❗️Cut spending; raise taxes; or both. We strongly urge Gov Whitmer & legislative leaders to do more, a lot more, to fix the roads‼️ https://t.co/95j8iKfSI3
— Rich Studley (@rstudley) March 17, 2019