By: - March 20, 2019 4:56 pm

The freeze-thaw cycle is in full swing in winter 2019 in Michigan | Susan J. Demas

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s roads tax plan got a warm reception last week at a Detroit Regional Chamber luncheon and now the group is making it official.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking at the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, March 14, 2019 | Ken Coleman

The chamber on Wednesday said it’s endorsing Whitmer’s plan to hike the gas tax 45 cents starting Oct. 1 to raise $2.5 billion to fix Michigan’s roads. The governor announced her proposal this month as part of her fiscal year 2020 budget.

That’s a high-profile endorsement for Whitmer, who has faced fierce opposition from Republicans and a milquetoast response from Democrats. She’s been traveling across the state this month trying to drum up support for her proposal.

“The Detroit Regional Chamber supports the Governor’s proposal to address the road funding crisis by generating $2.5 billion annually in new funding with the preferred source being a gas tax or other user fee,” President and CEO Sandy Baruah said in a statement. “The Chamber looks forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to finalize the mechanism to achieve this goal.”

Sandy Baruah

However, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) aren’t on board. At the event last week, Baruah told reporters “there is a growing split between the Republican legislators and the business community.”

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which also favors the user fee approach for roads, is typically on the same page with Republicans. CEO Rich Studley issued a measured tweet last week encouraging both sides to work together because “doing nothing is not an option.”


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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.