State Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, and state Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, are hosting a town hall meeting at Spring Lake District Library at 7 tonight to discuss the issue.
“I am holding these town halls to hear directly from the people about the best way to fix and maintain our infrastructure before we commit to a long-term solution,” Meekhof said.
One set of ideas introduced in Lansing would double the gas tax from 19 cents a gallon to an equivalent wholesale tax of 37 cents per gallon. This tax could rise or fall no more than one penny each year, up to a ceiling of 50 cents.
Another proposal is to hike vehicle registration fees by 80 percent, while commercial trucks and tractors would pay 45 percent more.
Another idea is a constitutional amendment to increase the state’s sales tax to 8 percent. The increased money would be used to top of the tank on the state budget for road and bridge repair projects.
With the sales tax plan, the fuel tax would be eliminated.
Meekhof said providing the funding to improve roads and bridges is important for the economy and for the state’s residents.
“I support the idea of improving our transportation infrastructure, because the safety of our families and the health of our economy both rely on quality roads and efficient ports,” he said.
Price said she is reading up on the proposals and spending time trying to determine what would be the best course of action for transportation funding.
“I am still working my way through all of this,” she said. “I am very hesitant about what the governor has proposed because it is such a large increase so quickly.”
Price said Snyder is also looking to change how the funding would be distributed.
“The governor is proposing a different formula than what we have now,” she said. “The weighting formula says 8 percent of the roads bear 75 percent of the traffic.”
Price suspects that will take money from West Michigan, where there is less traffic, and shift it to other areas of the state where the traffic loads are heavier.
Local residents have mixed feelings regarding the proposals being considered in Lansing.
Joan Jensen of Spring Lake said if the state is going to do anything, she would prefer that the fuel tax be changed as opposed to registration fees and sales tax.
“I believe I would choose gas before I’d choose registration fees, or before I’d choose the sales tax increase,” she said. “I believe if you use something, you can pay that luxury.”
Compared to what a sales tax hike would do, Jensen said shifting driving habits could put the brakes on the impact of the fuel tax.
“A few extra cents on that gasoline wouldn’t matter if you were purchasing things that were going to be charged 8 percent,” she said. “You can cut down on the way you use your car, and so you can cut down on using gas.”
Having made a lot of purchases recently, Jensen said an 8 percent sales tax would have really added up.
“I bought a new condo in August so I made a lot of purchases,” she said. “That 8 percent — had it been made at that time — would have been a huge increase.”
Grand Haven resident Peggy Haig also wonders what the possible increases might mean to her personal budget.
“I understand Michigan is very broke and needs more money, but there has to be an alternative,” she said.
Haig noted that the last time state lawmakers increased the sales tax, it increased the burden on her.
“It was supposed to lower the property tax," she recalls. "I voted for it because I live in a mobile home, and I thought it would make the mobile home people’s property taxes go down so they wouldn’t have to keep raising the lot rent. They continued to raise the lot rent, so I was paying that plus the higher sales tax, and that really hurt.”
HOW TO CONTACT LAWMAKERS:
Gov. Rick Snyder
Address: P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, MI 48909
Rep. Amanda Price
Address: N-1193 House Office Building, P.O. Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909
Sen. Arlan Meekhof
Address: P.O. Box 30036, Lansing, MI 48909