Sen. Proos: ‘We can get 9 percent of road funding goal up front’
Legislation has been introduced that would ensure that a portion of the motor fuel tax available for discretionary use is counted toward the $1.2 billion Gov. Rick Snyder wants for road funding.
Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, would earmark $100 million, or possibly more, to transportation funding in the 2013 budget.
"The intent of my bill is to make sure the portion of dollars our taxpayers and vehicle drivers pay at the pump, which is not constitutionally mandated to go elsewhere, will be used for our roads and transportation infrastructure," Sen. Proos said. "I'm convinced that most of the constituents in my district believe that's how it should be used.
"We're estimating that it would be about 9 percent of the $1.2 billion the governor is asking for," he said. "It could bring in as much as $130 million to $140 million annually. Obviously that will vary, depending on pump prices and some other factors."
Gov. Snyder said during his State of the State speech that road and infrastructure spending would be a priority this year. He is expected to release a roads plan soon.
Sen. Proos said some of the gas tax money has been going into the state's general fund and then, later, used for transportation, so the state can qualify for federal matching funds. He said he thinks that could happen again, but the purpose of Senate Bill 6 is to lock the funding in place to make sure it doesn't get used for anything other than transportation.
Earmarking that portion of the fuel sales tax for roads ahead of time would clearly identify the funding as transportation dollars. In addition, Sen Proos said, it should help simplify the often confusing process of doing the annual transportation budget.
"For years now we've ended up cobbling together dollars to get the federal match," he said. "It's really not a very good way of doing it. Under my bill, we'd be saying from the start, this money is going toward transportation.
"A lot of people don't realize that much of the sales tax on fuel is constitutionally mandated for specific uses. But the 40 percent that's not constitutionally mandated elsewhere should go to transportation."
The Snyder administration's reaction to Senate Bill 6 was less than enthusiastic.
"The governor is interested in having a broad discussion on transportation funding and coming up with solutions that will provide the necessary funding to maintain and improve the state's infrastructure," said Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the governor's office. "Rather than taking a piecemeal approach, it is time to look at comprehensive solutions and take the necessary actions."
Mackinac Center for Public Policy Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive said more road funding dollars are needed. But he added that some approaches to getting the money are preferable to others.
"The roads need improvement," LaFaive said. "It is about time the state made it a priority. Raising taxes and fees associated with road use is smarter tax policy than say, a personal income tax increase. Any tax and fee increases, however, should be offset with spending and tax cuts elsewhere."