CHICAGO — Michigan lawmakers have unveiled a series of bills that would revamp the state’s transportation infrastructure formula, raise $1 billion of new money, and create a new bond-issuing regional transit authority for the Detroit region.
The 17-bill package has bipartisan support and closely follows Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal. Snyder, like other lawmakers, cited a recent legislative study that said Michigan needs at least $1.4 billion of annual new money just to maintain its road and bridge system.
The measures would replace the state’s retail per-gallon gas tax with a wholesale tax. The change would automatically raise the tax to 28.3 cents from 19.3 cents and make Michigan the only state to apply a wholesale fuel tax.
It’s estimated the shift will raise $541 million of new money. It would allow the state to collect more money as the price of oil increases, though the legislation includes a provision restricting the tax rate from rising or falling more than 1% a year.
Another $500 million would come from raising annual vehicle registration fees. The legislation also allows counties to raise their registration fees.
Drivers would still pay the 6% sales gasoline tax.
The bill package also creates a bond-issuing regional transit authority for a four-county region in southeast Michigan.
The 10-member authority would build and oversee a regional bus system that runs along downtown Detroit and between Ann Arbor and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
The bus system would replace plans for a publicly funded light-rail system along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue.
The city had planned to issue federal grant-backed bonds for the project, which is now expected to be smaller in scope and financed entirely with private donations.
The new authority would become the official recipient of federal and state transportation funds, replacing existing local agencies. If approved by voters, the authority could impose a registration fee to raise additional money.
Though the package’s main sponsor, Rep. Rick Olson, is a Republican, his party’s leaders have voiced some skepticism.
They are in favor of a proposal that would dedicate 2% of the current gas sales tax solely to transportation projects, according to the caucus spokesman.
The House Democrats, meanwhile, put out a statement saying they support the plan.
“This bipartisan package of bills is a good place to start the discussion about what we need to do to maintain our infrastructure now and prepare for our state’s future needs,” House Democratic Leader Richard Hammel said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the House Transportation Committee this week held a hearing on a three-bill package introduced last October that would be an alternative to the 17-bill Snyder-backed transportation proposal.
The three-bill alternative proposes raising the state’s retail sales tax by one penny, to 7% from 6%, and depositing the money into the transportation fund.
The committee debated the proposal Wednesday but did not vote on it.