East Lansing road | Susan J. Demas
The Michigan House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to pass a bill suspending the state’s motor fuel tax until Sept. 30 in an effort to combat skyrocketing gas prices amid inflation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The bill, House Bill 5570, introduced by state Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), would put a halt on the state’s 27.2 cents-per-gallon tax for six months, from April 1 until Sept. 30. It would also aim to ensure that consumers receive the benefits of the cutback instead of companies looking to boost their profits, but has no plan laid out in the bill to ensure this.
The bill passed 63-39 and now heads to the Senate.
As of Thursday, the average gas price for unleaded regular gas in Michigan was $4.26, which is about a 51.3% increase from what it was this time last year, $2.81, according to AAA.
Johnson said on the House floor that the bill will “make an incredible impact” on “the poorest among us” and urged that the bill will provide relief to “those struggling to make ends meet.” He also blasted U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as Republicans are making gas prices a major part of their midterm election strategy.
“You have a choice before you,” Johnson said. “It’s abundantly clear, either you stand with the working people in Michigan in giving them some relief at the gas pump or you’re putting your prayers in Nancy Pelosi coming through for us.”
The suspension of the gas tax would also lead to a reduction of $725 million in gas tax collection, according to an analysis done by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency. The analysis also rebuffed the idea that consumers would receive all of the benefits instead of companies, noting that “there is no way to know if the consumer is actually receiving all or any part of the benefit.”
State Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), who voted no, said there is “absolutely nothing in there that backfills this money” in the budget for fixing roads.
State Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren), who also voted against the bill, said on the House floor that the measure is “a piece of candy” that is “going to taste really sweet but it’s going to dissolve quickly.”
House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.), who voted against the bill, said in a press release following the bill’s passage that it is an “irresponsible and reckless tax cut with no regard for the people of Michigan” that is being pushed by Republicans.
“Nobody in our chamber disagrees with providing relief to Michiganders which is why House Democrats stand with seniors for the pension tax repeal and direct tax credits for working people and families,” Lasinski said. “Todays bill means thousands of trades jobs lost and hundreds of road repair projects shuttered. Your drive to work and kids’ rides home from school becomes that much more dangerous, and auto repair costs will continue to skyrocket.”
Nick Occhipinti, government affairs director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said the organization sympathizes with those in the state who “are facing skyrocketing gas and energy costs” but condemned the bill for its long-term effects on funding for programs crucial to Michiganders.
“This hasty, reckless gas tax cut will have long-term costs, and impacts on funding for key priorities, like safe, clean drinking water and reliable infrastructure,” Occhipinti said. “This latest round of skyrocketing energy costs is just another example of why we need to triple down on an electric vehicle future, unplug from our dependence on foreign oil, and accelerate our adoption of clean, homegrown, renewable energy.”
The bill’s passage also comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined five other governors Tuesday in sending a letter to both U.S. House and Senate leadership urging lawmakers to suspend the federal fuel tax. In a statement to the Advance, Whitmer’s spokesman Bobby Leddy said the best way to help consumers is to suspend the federal gas tax.
“Governor Whitmer is always working to lower costs and save drivers money,” Leddy said. “Right now, the best way to bring down the price of gas without impacting our ability to fix the damn roads is by suspending the federal gas tax.”
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