Detroit Chamber backs Whitmer’s gas tax hike

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    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.

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking at the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, March 14, 2019 | Ken Coleman

    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.”

    Sandy Baruah

    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.”

     

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    Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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