House Democrats Fight House Speaker's Roads Plan That Hurts Schools

Plan repeals sales tax on gasoline without replacing money schools would lose
Thursday, December 4, 2014

LANSING - House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee vice chairwoman Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser) and Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) today said they are ready to vote to fix Michigan roads, but not at the expense of taking money out of schools and local communities to pay for road repairs. House Republicans brought House Speaker Jase Bolger’s plan to the floor, which would repeal the 6 percent sales tax on gasoline while phasing in an increase in a tax on the wholesale price of gasoline. That plan essentially shifts money that now goes to schools and local government to roads.

“Legislative Republicans cut funding for our schools in 2011 to pay for a massive tax cut for large corporations, and it is unconscionable that they now want to take another $750 million per year out of our classrooms to fix roads,” said Greimel. “It is irresponsible and short-sighted to try to fix one problem by slashing funding for schools.”

The Republican proposal would exempt gasoline and diesel fuel sales from the sales tax while increasing the gasoline tax in order to eventually raise about $1 billion per year to fund road repairs, according to House Republicans, without any replacement source for our schools. Currently, a large portion of that 6 percent sales tax on gasoline goes is constitutionally dedicated the state School Aid Fund. The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency estimates that if HB 4539 - the bill that repeals the sales tax on gasoline - becomes law, schools would lose as much as $750 million per year, and the per-pupil foundation grant would have to be cut accordingly. Bolger claims that, according to economic projections, schools would make up the money they lose by increases in the sales tax revenue as the economy grows.

“There are a number of bills and proposals to raise money to fix our roads that don’t take money away from other parts of our budget, and those are the proposals we should be considering,” said Lane. “Our roads and bridges are in dire need of repairs, but taking more money out of ours schools to do this is not a solution. Speaker Bolger is showing a complete lack of leadership and political courage by even suggesting that we fund roads by taking more money away from schools, which will undoubtedly increase class sizes even more and mean less money for books and other resources.”

“If this plan passes then we won’t have to worry about school buses doing any damage to our roads because school districts won’t be able to afford to send buses out to pick up our kids,” said Dillon, Democratic vice chairman of the House Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee. “Our schools have already lost money thanks to the 2011 tax changes, and if we defund our schools by another $750 million a year, then school districts throughout the state are going to face hard choices. We have to have good roads in order to keep and attract new business and industry, but we also have to have good schools in order to educate our kids to succeed in the workforce. HB 4539 won’t do that, and that’s why we can’t support it.”