Optional county fuel tax part of bipartisan Michigan road funding proposal

State Reps. Tim Sneller, left, and Jack O'Malley unveil a new road funding plan that includes an optional fuel tax for counties.
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LANSING (WJRT) (9/12/2019) - Michigan counties would have the option of asking voters to approve an additional local fuel tax under a bipartisan road funding plan unveiled Thursday.

State Rep. Jack O'Malley, a Republican from Lake Ann, unveiled the proposal with State Rep. Tim Sneller, a Democrat from Burton. The plan allows more localized decisions about road funding and prioritizing projects.

House Bill 4963 would create Michigan's first local option fuel tax, which would add a third level of gas taxes in addition to the state and federal gas taxes.

County governments would decide whether to ask voters for the additional tax, so the additional tax isn't automatic. Voters would decide whether they want to pay the extra tax.

If a county fuel tax is approved, the money collected would be distributed to the county road commission, cities, villages and any other road agencies based on population and a breakdown of the road miles they maintain.

“Road funding is important. We’ve committed more money to road repairs in our House budget plan that was approved in June. But it’s about spending our money smarter,” said O’Malley. “I think we can get more mileage from those dollars and have our rules be more tailored to what communities across the state need – and that is what these bills do.”

O'Malley, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said his plan differs from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proposed 45-cent gas tax increase by putting additional money in the hands of local leaders instead of a statewide board.

“Gov. Whitmer’s massive gas hike idea was unpopular for many reasons, and one of the concerns is the revenue from her plan would have been unfairly distributed to places like Metro Detroit,” O’Malley said. “With a local fuel tax ballot option, if people in a particular county want better roads, they will have the opportunity to pay for them.”

Other parts of his plan include vehicle registration changes, asset management planning, bridge work collaboration and rollbacks on prequalification limitations for certain contract work.

O'Malley plans to bring up his plan with the House Transportation Committee.