Whitmer signals veto of bill to freeze state gasoline tax

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LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signaled Friday she will veto Republican-sponsored legislation that would freeze Michigan’s 27-cents-per-gallon gasoline and diesel taxes for six months amid high prices at the pump.

The Democratic governor instead called on Congress to pause the federal 18-cents-a-gallon gas tax and 24-cent diesel tax.

Whitmer told reporters at an unrelated bill-signing ceremony she is “all in” on trying to get Michiganders relief, citing $400 auto insurance refunds per vehicle and her proposals to gradually eliminate taxation of retirement income and to increase the state’s earned income tax credit for low- and moderate-income workers. The focus, she said, should be on helping people who “are struggling to keep their head above water.”

Pressed on whether she will sign the measure the Senate plans to send her next week, the governor said: “Well, it won’t have lived up to any of those things that I just said. So you can draw your own conclusions.”

The federal legislation supported by Whitmer would shift general funds to ensure there is no impact on road and bridge funding. Republicans have said they would do something similar if she signs the state bill, which would cut revenue by $725 million.

“Why are we putting our fate in the hands of the federal government, when we here in the state have our own state gas tax, which is higher than the federal gas tax?” said Rep. Steve Johnson, a Wayland Republican.

He said dropping the 27-cents-per-gallon tax would have an “incredible impact” for the poor. He also pointed to a multibillion-dollar budget surplus.

The statewide average price of an unleaded gallon of gas was $4.25, up from $3.36 a month ago. Prices already were on the rise due to increasing demand as the coronavirus pandemic began to recede but are up even more after Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.

Whitmer previously called for budget and tax negotiations to begin. She soon will veto a separate Republican-backed bill that would cut the state income tax, let more seniors exempt income from taxation and create a child tax credit.

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