Freedom Fund hammers Whitmer for ‘lazy’ roads plan

    Susan J. Demas

    The conservative Freedom Fund is slamming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying she’s gone back on an October debate statement that dramatically raising the gas tax is “ridiculous.”

    The governor’s budget proposal includes increasing the state’s fuel tax by 45 cents to fix the roads, which would give Michigan the nation’s highest gas tax. She told reporters on Tuesday that the gas tax wasn’t her original plan, but she was convinced it was the “smartest” solution.

    In her campaign, Whitmer called for creating a $3 billion “Rebuild Michigan Bank” to pay for fixes to roads, bridges and other infrastructure. She did not indicate then where the money might come from.

    During an October debate between the Democrat and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette, Whitmer claimed her plan “draws down” $1 billion of that from the federal government. She said the other $2 billion would come from the state, but did not get into specifics.

    Gretchen Whitmer | Wikipedia Commons

    In the exchange, Whitmer called it “ridiculous” when Schuette claimed she intends to increase the gas tax by 20 cents.

    “That’s ridiculous. It’s nonsense, and you know it,” Whitmer responded to Schuette, the state’s former attorney general, during the televised debate.

    When asked about the exchange at a press conference following her budget proposal to the Legislature, Whitmer said she did not flip-flop. She argued that although a fuel tax increase was not her original plan, it was the “smartest, quickest” solution after “40 years of disinvestment” that has left Michigan roads in disrepair.

    “My campaign promise was to fix the damn roads. This plan does that,” Whitmer told reporters.

    Whitmer also has noted that her plan is similar to that proposed by the bipartisan Michigan Consensus Policy Project composed of former legislative leaders, including former state Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema (R-Wyoming) and former Lt. Gov. John Cherry. Their plan hiked the gas tax 47 cents.

    The Michigan Freedom Fund on Tuesday hammered the governor over what its executive director, Tony Daunt, calls “a destructive new plan to triple the gas tax.” Daunt called Whitmer’s plan “lazy” and said it would hurt Michiganders.

    “Tripling the gas tax is a lazy and uninspired proposal that will devastate Michigan families,” Daunt said in a statement. “Gretchen Whitmer understands the harm she’s doing to families as well as anyone — that’s why she lied on the campaign trail about her plan to triple motorists’ taxes.”

    Laura Cox

    On Monday, Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox also went after Whitmer on her roads plan.

    “Governor Whitmer promised that she would ‘fix the damn roads;’ instead she is proposing a $2 billion tax increase that will break many Michiganders budgets,” Cox said in a statement on Monday. “This comes just 4 years after Michiganders rejected a similar proposal by an 80/20 vote. The people of Michigan deserve real solutions on this critical issue, not a tax and spend solution which places the burden on the states overtaxed families.”

    In 2015, Gov. Rick Snyder backed a 1-percent increase to the sales tax to fund roads, which voters soundly rejected, as Cox noted.

    Later that year, Snyder had a new plan for roads that hiked the gas tax. Cox was a GOP House member and she voted for his plan to increase gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees. That will raise $1.2 billion annually for roads by 2021.

    Michael Gerstein
    Michael Gerstein covers the governor’s office, criminal justice and the environment. Before that, he wrote about state government and politics for the Detroit News, the Associated Press and MIRS News and won a Society of Professional Journalism award for open government reporting. He studied philosophy at Michigan State University, where he wrote for both The State News and Capital News Service. He began his journalism career freelancing for The Sturgis Journal, his hometown paper.

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