Snyder Expected to Focus on Road Funding

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Governor Rick Snyder is expected to lay out a controversial plan to fix Michigan roads in his Wednesday State of the State address.

The plan could include a combination of higher vehicle registration fees and an increase in the gas tax. The Michigan Department of Transportation says state roads are in critical need, but opponents of the plan say raising taxes in this economy approaches the edge of madness.

According to MDOT, the state has a choice between prevention or starting from scratch.

"We're very close to letting them go because we can't afford to do that maintenance," agency spokesman Jeff Cranson explained. "They're going to need complete rebuilds."

Cranson says Michigan needs at least an additional $900 million a year to meet current state highway needs, but the price tag could be as high as $1.6 billion annually.

"It's kind of a misnomer when you hear we have 87 percent of our roads in good or fair condition," he said. "That sounds like a pretty good number, but if we don't make investments right away that 87 percent is very quickly going to start to fall."

Snyder is expected to call for those dollars with increased vehicle registration fees and gas taxes, as a higher percentage levied on wholesale fuel.

Some in the fuel industry say that would mean consumers paying 10-20 cents more a gallon at the pump.

"You definitely want a smooth road, but can't we do that without making gasoline more expensive?" Mark Griffin with the Michigan Petroleum Association said. "Do we have to do what's already failed over and over again or can we try something new?"

Nationally, the state's gas taxes are already on the high end.

"When you're already the sixth highest, seventh highest in the country, that doesn't seem like a good thing for the people of Michigan," Griffin said.

MDOT sees it differently.

"It's a small amount to invest to really save money later, sooner or later we're going to rebuild the system," Cranson said. "Nobody in Michigan wants to see our interstates become gravel."

Snyder hasn't revealed specifics about his road funding plan yet, however he has confirmed he won't be calling for a levy based on miles driven.

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