Photo: Jon Hewett / WWJ

Whitmer Visits Detroit To Sell Proposed Budget, Gas Tax Increase

“I’m going to need the help of everyone in this room to get this done,” Whitmer said.

March 14, 2019 - 6:56 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer paid a visit to Detroit Thursday, part of a statewide tour attempting to sell her proposed budget, which includes a 45-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase.

“I’m going to need the help of everyone in this room to get this done,” Whitmer told the crowd at a working meeting with the Detroit Regional Chamber at the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit.

Whitmer called the gas tax increase the linchpin of her budget. The increase would be phased in, in three 15-cent-per-gallon increments, starting in October, if the plan is approved.

Some Republicans have already called the proposal a nonstarter, and others have called it "insane," but through her town halls and luncheons like this one at the MGM Grand, Whitmer keeps chipping away.

“It’s an education process -- with the legislature, with the public," the Governor said. "But the fact of the matter is, we have a $2.5 billion infrastructure problem in Michigan and if we don’t start solving it, we’re all going to pay a huge price down the road.”

Whitmer says she does not want to raise the gas tax, but says it's now or never for the state to do something about its crumbling infrastructure.

"No one wants to raise the gas tax," Whitmer said. "But the hard truth of what we’re facing as a state, is if we don’t address this problem, it could get so out of control, we’ll never be in a position to address it.”

As to whether the Governor is gaining traction and support for the proposal, the answer, at least locally, appears to be yes.

After the Governor’s appearance in Detroit, Regional Chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah told WWJ's Jon Hewett he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached on the gas tax and funding but sees a growing split between two kep parties.

“I think that there is a growing split between the say the Republican legislators and the business community," Baruah said. "I think the business community is becoming much more amenable to the 45-cent gas tax to solve the roads problem.”

Baruah added if someone else -- meaning House and Senate Republicans -- can show him another way to get to $2.5 billion a year for road funding in Michigan, he’s all ears.