Peters: Raise road funding from U.S. companies seeking to move abroad

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters suggested Friday that Congress should tap more revenue for road repairs by preventing U.S. companies from moving their headquarters abroad through mergers with foreign companies.

Peters embraced proposals by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, to stop the tax moves while calling Republican Terri Lynn Land’s plan to slash the federal gas tax 75 percent a “right-wing tea party proposal” that would cost the state $1 billion.

“I understand Ms. Land doesn’t want to be responsible for making any tough decisions in Washington. She basically wants state legislators to do it,” Peters said.

Earlier this week, Land said she wants to cut more than three-quarters of the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gas tax from Uncle Sam and let states like Michigan decide if they would approve the funds for state road repairs.

Land, a former secretary of state, would gradually cut the amount of the federal gas tax controlled by Washington from 18.4 cents to 4 cents a gallon over an unspecified period of years. The move would effectively end most federal rules for U.S. highway travel and, her campaign argues, let states divert money from mass transit and other projects that don’t make sense.

Peters noted Land’s plan would require the state Legislature to approve a massive increase in state gas taxes to make up for the difference, something it hasn’t done when asked by Gov. Rick Snyder. “They have not been able to do what is necessary,” Peters argued. “Is she for a massive increase in the state road tax or is she for toll roads? I'm not sure — she basically gives no specifics.”

Michigan receives $1.03 for every $1 it sends to Washington in road taxes.

Land’s campaign countered Friday that Peters has been part of the problem.

“Gary Peters doesn't understand Terri's plan because he's spent years being part of the problem, increasing taxes and raiding the fund to fix our roads,” Land spokeswoman Heather Swift said. “...While Terri put out a widely praised plan that returned Michigan dollars to Michigan and gave local communities more power, Gary Peters has a long history of trying to hike gas taxes by nearly 20 percent.”

Land’s campaign was referring to a 1998 plan by Peters when he was a state senator to hike the diesel fuel tax 4 cents to 19 cents a gallon — an idea that would have predominantly affected highway truckers. It did not include a hike in gasoline taxes.

Swift didn’t directly answer if Land supports preventing U.S. companies from merging with smaller foreign companies to avoid paying U.S. income taxes.

In the interview, Peters said Land’s road plan would end federal “Buy America” provisions that require use of U.S. building materials as well as other restrictions including anti-drunk driving measures that states are required to adopt to receive federal road funds.

“What are the onerous regulations that should be eliminated?” Peters asked.

Peters noted that a version of Land’s proposal has been opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups.

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