Michigan Budget

FILE - Ion this Feb. 12, 2019 file photo, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. Whitmer wants to spend billions more to fix the roads and boost a lagging education system. But as the Democrat prepares to deliver her first budget proposal to the Republican-led Legislature, she faces fiscal and political pressures that are complicating her task. She notes the general fund has not grown much. The budget is Whitmer's chance to detail how she plans to "fix the damn roads" and pay for priorities like letting high school graduates attend community college for free. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

LANSING, Mich. — New Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who campaigned on a bold plan to “fix the damn roads” in the capital of the U.S. auto industry, will propose nearly tripling the state’s per-gallon fuel tax, her office said Monday.

The Democrat’s budget proposal, which will be a tough sell in the Republican-led Legislature, would boost the 26-cent gasoline and diesel tax by 45 cents by October 2020. The tax hikes would coincide with relief “to help offset the cost to people’s pocketbooks,” which Whitmer will discuss further when she presents her spending plan Tuesday, said spokeswoman Tiffany Brown.

Whitmer also will outline a proposed $500 million increase to state K-12 classroom spending, including a $180 boost in the minimum per-student grant and substantial funding hikes to teach low-income, vocational and special education students.

She wants to boost the 26-cent gasoline and diesel taxes by 15 cents in October, an additional 15 cents in April 2020 and 15 more cents in October 2020. That would generate an additional $2 billion annually.

A top GOP lawmaker, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, did not rule out a tax hike to better fund roads and bridges but said his initial priority is lowering the high cost of car insurance in the state.“He’d first like the governor to work with him and his caucus to save families money by reforming car insurance,” said spokeswoman Amber McCann. “Then he would entertain having a discussion about new revenue for roads.”

Higher fuel and vehicle registration fees took effect two years ago as part of Republican-enacted laws to gradually pump $1.2 billion more annually into transportation — following a failed ballot initiative — but many agree it is not enough new spending. Four former legislative leaders from both parties have said fuel taxes should be increased by 47 cents over nine years.

The state Republican Party criticized Whitmer, however, saying her proposal would “break many Michiganders’ budgets.”

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