Lansing — A House committee on Tuesday passed a $3.4 billion transportation budget that is $1.2 billion less than Gov. Rick Snyder wanted to fix the state's roadways.
The House Appropriations transportation subcommittee's bill does not include the $1.2 billion in new revenue Snyder is seeking because the Legislature has so far been unable to agree on whose tax bills should increase to pay for road repairs.
Snyder's budget proposal assumed new revenue to fill a $130 million deficit in the Michigan Department of Transportation's budget caused by declining revenue from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees.
The House committee backfilled the shortfall with $100 million in general fund revenue, which the panel's chairman acknowledged would have to come from elsewhere in the state budget.
"I hope this is not the final product," said Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, chair of the committee.
VerHeulen said the committee could not budget for Snyder's proposed increase in spending without new revenue.
"This budget continues us in the wrong direction by actually decreasing the investment made in our transportation system," said Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.
In February, Snyder proposed raising the gas tax from 19 cents per gallon to the equivalent of 33 cents and increasing vehicle registration fees for cars and light vehicles by 60 percent. The governor also wanted to increase the per-gallon tax on diesel fuel from 15 cents to 33 cents and hike registration fees on commercial trucks and trailers by 25 percent.
But the Republican governor's plan has failed to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature as lawmakers took notice of rising gas prices.
"That gas tax proposal doesn't seem to resonate well," VerHeulen said.
Some drivers regard the registration fees as a "birthday tax" because the payment corresponds with their birthday.
VerHeulen said his 74th District constituents in Kent County are more open to a 1 cent sales tax increase dedicated to roads, which would require voter approval in a statewide election.
"In the coffee shops in my district, that seems to be more palatable," he said.
Lawmakers have already missed the deadline to place a sales tax increase on the May ballot but could call a special election at any time or put the question before voters in the August and November elections.