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Detroit — Three of the region's four political heavy hitters said Friday they back Proposition 1, the May 5 ballot issue that would raise $1.2 billion a year to fix the state's crumbling roadways.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said they support it. But Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said he doesn't.

The so-called Big Four made the remarks during a panel discussion, the main event of a luncheon for more than 750 people at the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.

Their comments come less than two weeks before voters go to the polls to decide the fate of Prop 1, which calls for eliminating the state's 6 percent sales tax on fuel sales and replacing it with a new wholesale fuel tax system as well as a 1 percent sales tax increase on all other goods.

Duggan said he plans to vote in favor of the proposal. "We have pushed the bill for our roads on to our kids and our grandkids," the Detroit mayor said. "At what point are we going to stop pushing it to the next generations?"

Hackel said he thinks the legislators behind the proposal didn't do a good job of explaining to the public what the measure will do to help fund road repairs, though he backs it.

But Oakland County's executive, the only Republican in the group, said he opposes the proposal. "There are other ways to fix our roads without jamming the taxpayer," Patterson said.

Friday's luncheon was organized by the Eight Mile Boulevard Association, a Detroit-based group that works to keep and attract businesses on M-102, or Eight Mile.

The theme for the event, now in its 16th year, was Destination Eight Mile.

In addition to Prop 1, the Big Four covered a range of topics, from auto insurance reform, Detroit Public Schools and Wayne County's financial challenges to same-sex marriage, economic development and the legalization of marijuana.

Duggan said he plans next week to present a proposal to provide low-cost auto insurance for city residents. In the past, the mayor has said he wants to create a city government insurance company to offer lower-cost insurance than plans sold by private insurers.

Evans said Wayne County, which is trying to close a $70 million annual deficit, "has some heaving lifting to do."

"The county is definitely salvageable," he said. "But it involves pain. From top to bottom, everyone is going to feel the pinch."

Delonaka Edwards, business and community relationships representative for Michigan First Credit Union, said she thought the panelists' comments on Prop 1 were the highlight of the discussion.

"The whole thing was very interesting and informative," said Edwards, who attended the Eight Mile Boulevard Association's leadership luncheon for the first time Friday. "I was more interested in some of their responses about the upcoming election. There were somethings about it I had questions on."

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

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