Editorial: Stop bickering, offer drivers relief at pump

The Detroit News

Republicans and Democrats in Lansing continue to fight over how best to offer relief at the pump, and it's Michigan drivers who are left in the lurch. The aggravating back and forth over proposals to suspend taxes on fuel means nothing is getting done — all while gas prices remain above $4 a gallon. 

Our state’s politicians need to put their partisan bickering aside and work together on finding a solution.

Both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and GOP legislative leaders have said they’d support different ways to reduce taxes on fuel, so it seems a compromise is within reach.

A recent poll from Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group found more than 60% of respondents support both a suspension of the state and federal gasoline taxes. 

When fuel prices started spiking earlier this year, Whitmer launched the debate by saying she’d back a holiday from the federal tax, which amounts to 18 cents a gallon. 

More:Whitmer backs suspension of 6% sales tax on fuel, but may face obstacle

Lawmakers then decided to send her a proposal that would do the same for the state fuel tax, which is 27 cents a gallon. 

Yet when the Legislature sent Whitmer that bill this month, she said she'd veto it. She claimed she didn’t like that the suspension wouldn’t take effect until next year, since lawmakers failed to give it immediate effect. Plus, she says she won’t consider a cut that puts road funding in jeopardy. 

Instead, the governor says she likes the idea of suspending the 6% sales tax on fuel, a plan that is supported by legislative Democrats. 

Ironically, some Republicans are pushing back against the idea, even though plenty of them have supported varying forms of stripping the sales tax on gasolines in the past — and still do. 

Opponents to Whitmer’s idea say that the savings from the sales tax suspension may not be as consistently high (since it’s dependent on the price of fuel) as from targeting the state’s gasoline tax. As long as gasoline remains about $4 a gallon, though, the savings would be roughly 24 cents a gallon. 

By temporarily cutting the state fuel tax, the Republican plan would be taking about $750 million from the pool of money to fix roads and bridges. It would also place matching federal grants at risk. 

That makes permanently stripping the sales tax on gasoline the best approach. The sales tax brings in around $900 million a year. It doesn’t go toward roads, but rather to schools and local governments, both of which have received record windfalls in federal stimulus dollars during the pandemic. 

Inflation is going to stick around for a while, and Michigan drivers deserve some lasting relief from lawmakers and the governor.