Governor and Lawmakers Take Aim at High Gas Prices

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Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday signed into law stiffer fines for gas station owners who intentionally cheat the public with inaccurate pumps.

Owners who purposely deliver less fuel to customers than indicated on pump meters will face a civil fine of $5,000 for a first offense. A second offense will cost $10,000, and a third offense will cost $25,000.

The law, sponsored by Republican Rep. Fran Amos of Waterford, also gives the state Department of Agriculture the authority to shut down violating stations until problems are corrected. The department is required to annually inspect any station with three or more intentional violations.

"We must do all we can at the state level to make sure consumers are treated fairly and are getting what they pay for," Granholm said.

The agriculture department received about 1,000 formal complaints about the accuracy of fuel pumps in 2004.

Granholm also told reporters at the bill-signing ceremony that she supports another bill, which has passed the House and is in the Senate, which would give her the authority to lift the six percent state sales tax on gasoline and diesel fuel during an emergency.

But she said she wouldn't suspend the tax at this time because the state isn't reaping a "windfall" in taxes, and noted that overall sales tax revenue is down. The governor is worried about the effect any lost tax revenue would have on funding for K-12 public schools.