Last year Michigan raised its gasoline tax by seven cents from 19 cents to 26 cents per gallon. It was the first increase in the gas tax in 20 years. If the 1995 gas tax had been indexed for inflation the current gas tax would be $.30/gallon.
The State has not brought the tax up to where it should have been and that does not address the huge underinvestment which has occurred over those twenty years. Additionally, the average vehicle is getting slightly more miles per gallon than in 1995 which also chips away at revenue.
The state has no choice other than to raise the gas tax again as the long deferred big ticket items like bridges are reaching the point of no return.
Here are some specific issues which make sense for roads:
- Right of way—All state projects must include the cost of purchasing the right of way. Michigan allows any landowner to hire a lawyer to dispute assessments and the county pays all legal fees. Other states do not pay those fees. Michigan needs to explore other state best practices and pass legislation with those practices.
- DEQ—The DEQ does not have a check and it can result in costs rising severalfold. Michigan needs to have an arbiter panel quickly decide County Road Commission/DEQ disputes.
- Act 51-road allocation-kind of technical, but the County Road Association which comprises all 83 counties recently recommended that the urban percentage be increased from 10% to 13%. The state should make a change reflecting the percentage change.
- The 2015 road increase included a gas tax hike, registration hike and allocated some future general funds for roads. That can make road funding an annual battle. It makes a lot more sense to change the general fund amount to a pure gas tax. That sets road funding on autopilot-it is a need and an issue the legislature should and is able solve permanently.