Gov. Snyder: 'No Plan B' if Proposal 1 fails

Tom Greenwood and Derek Draplin
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Using a chunk of concrete as a prop, Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday continued his campaign to urge the passage of Proposal 1 to fix Michigan's crumbling roads.

"I am in a campaign mode," an upbeat Snyder said during a meeting with the Detroit News editorial board, brandishing a large lump of concrete that he said had plummeted from one of the state's many bridges.

"Six percent of bridges in Michigan, and 14 percent in the southeastern Michigan area, have plywood beneath them to catch falling concrete. That's not a good number."

Snyder has been campaigning across the state in support of the May 5 ballot fuel tax proposal that would raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent while eliminating the current 6 percent sales tax on fuel.

Currently, none of the 6 percent sales tax on fuel goes to the state's infrastructure. Constitutionally it has gone to schools and local governments.

Snyder said Thursday the transition to a proposed wholesale fuel tax system would result in drivers paying 3 cents a gallon more than the current 37.4 cents a gallon they pay in state and federal gas taxes. But the Citizens Research Council of Michigan released an analysis Thursday that showed the increase could be as high as 10.2 cents a gallon.

The estimate of the 10-cent increase depends on the price of gas costing $1.90 a gallon at the wholesale level — close the current wholesale price. But the Proposal 1-triggered increase would decline to a 6.6-cent hike if the wholesale price is $2.50 a gallon and a 2.1-cent raise if the wholesale price is $3.25 a gallon, according to the Citizens Research Council.

"Perhaps counterintuitively, as the price of gasoline increases, the difference between what consumers pay under the current system and what they would pay under the proposed system shrinks," according to the council's report.

Passage of the proposal would:

■ Set the maximum sales tax rate at 7 percent, up from the current 6 percent.

■ Eliminate gasoline/diesel fuel from sales and use taxes.

■ Dedicate a portion of use taxes to School Aid Funds.

■ All the use of SAF for public community colleges and career/technical education, but not higher education.

■ Increase vehicle registration fees.

■ Require competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.

Snyder acknowledged that his office has heard complaints from taxpayers about the proposal, including the failure of lawmakers to solve the problem in the Legislature, the complexity of the proposal and whether the additional road funding would be spent the right way.

"People are mad at the Legislature because it became a ballot proposal," Snyder said. "They wanted it solved by legislators, but the thing is it has to be done this way because it's a change to the state constitution.

"It was either put it up as a proposal or nothing at all, and I have always thought it's better to do something than nothing."

Snyder said the idea of eliminating the 6 percent gas tax started out as a complex problem that is simplified by Proposal 1.

"The easiest way was just to eliminate the 6 percent fuel tax and then raise the state gas tax to 7 percent," Snyder said.

"Compare that with adding 20 cents to the state fuel tax (currently at 19 and 15 cents per gallon for gas and diesel, respectively); that's a lot."

Snyder said there was the perception that current revenues weren't be spent the right way, laying much of the blame for the current condition of Michigan's roads on bad engineering plus shoddy workmanship and inferior materials.

"We put statutory 'teeth' in the proposition," Snyder said.

"Any project over $1 million will require warranties, which will mean more warranties overall.

"Projects over $100,000 will require more bids, plus MDOT and the largest counties will have to provide preventive maintenance plans for roads."

Roger Martin, spokesman for the campaign Safe Roads Yes on Proposal 1, said Thursday about 100 organizations are in support, describing it as "a massive coalition."

Before his appearance at The Detroit News, Snyder campaigned at a pro-Proposition 1 event in Dearborn, where he was joined by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans; Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton; Dearborn Mayor John O'Reilly; Detroit Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins; Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray and other officials and business leaders.

"Many groups have stepped up in support of the proposal," Snyder said.

"There hasn't been too much in the way of organized opposition."

Snyder said there is concern over what may be low voter turnout.

"We want to get out the vote because traditionally there's a low turnout for single propositions," Snyder said.

"This could turn on the votes of a couple of hundred thousand voters who are now undecided. If the proposal fails, there is no Plan B for the roads."

(313) 222-2023