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Michigan House speaker says taxes at pump should fund roads

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Michigan is among a small number of states to apply the sales tax to motor fuel — a factor in why its gas taxes were sixth-highest in the U.S. as of July, according to the Tax Foundation. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

LANSING, Mich. — New Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said Michigan will always struggle to fund roadwork until it solves the root problem — drivers pay some of the country’s highest taxes at the pump, but not all of the revenue goes to the transportation budget.

That factor, more than any other, is hampering Michigan’s ability to adequately upgrade roads, he said. Chatfield is leading majority House Republicans who will be critical to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pending push to inject more spending into roads and bridges.

“The fact is, we’ve done bonding in the past and we’re still paying for it. We’ve raised taxes in the past, and our roads are still crumbling,” he told the Associated Press in a recent interview. “We have got to change how we pay for the roads at the pump, and we need to ensure that every single penny paid at the pump is a penny that goes to the roads.”

Chatfield’s focus on taxes assessed at the pump is not new. A 2015 ballot initiative proposed by lawmakers — and soundly rejected by voters — would have doubled per-gallon fuel taxes but eliminated the sales tax on gasoline and diesel to ensure that all taxes at the pump went to transportation.

It was a complicated, multi-faceted proposal that also would have increased the sales tax while boosting spending on education and local governments. GOP legislators and former Gov. Rick Snyder later raised fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to increase road funding, but the plan has been faulted as inadequate.

Chatfield wants to revisit taxes at the pump. Michigan is among a small number of states to apply the sales tax to motor fuel — a factor in why its gas taxes were sixth-highest in the U.S. as of July, according to the Tax Foundation. The sales tax revenue mostly goes to schools and local governments under the state constitution.

Asked about the potential impact on schools, Chatfield said boosting roads should not come at their expense.

“Let me be very clear: We will not turn back the clock on education funding in this state,” he said.

Removing the sales tax on fuel would require a statewide vote. Another option could be to keep it intact and shift an equivalent from elsewhere in the budget to roads — an approach that already is squeezing the general fund under 2015 road-funding laws. Chatfield said fixing the roads is a priority not just for Whitmer, who campaigned on it, but also lawmakers and residents.

“They made that clear in November,” he said.

Chatfield, 30, is believed to be the youngest House speaker in more than a century, though having speakers who are in their 30s is commonplace in the term limits era.

He graduated from Northland International University, a Baptist college in Wisconsin, and obtained a master’s degree from Liberty University in Virginia. Before winning election to the House in 2014, he was a teacher, coach and athletic director at a Christian school in northern Michigan that was run by his minister father.

Factors in the conservative Chatfield’s victory were his criticism of his Republican primary opponent for introducing a bill to expand the state’s civil rights law to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people and helping to expand Medicaid.

“It was my obligation to either get involved or stop complaining,” said Chatfield, of Levering, which is about 10 miles south of the Mackinac Bridge. “I think the American spirit is one which encourages involvement, and then having children really impressed upon me the responsibility I had to fight for the values I believed in.”

Last year, Chatfield was the lead sponsor of a law that wiped clear outstanding state driver “responsibility” fees for hundreds of thousands of motorists. He unsuccessfully pushed for a state income tax cut in 2017.

He will lead the chamber the next two years before reaching his maximum time in the House. He has emphasized bipartisan cooperation with Democrats while quickly putting his stamp on how legislative business is to be conducted. Many bills will now go before two House committees instead of one before moving to the floor.

“Unfortunately, in the era of term limits we don’t have the opportunity to serve 10 to 20 years and become experts in different fields,” Chatfield said. “I believe that more collaboration and more debate will be healthy for this chamber.”

Top goals, he said, include reducing the high cost of car insurance and changing the criminal justice system to help inmates succeed upon their release and to prevent overcriminalization. He also wants to expand government transparency by opening the Legislature and governor’s office to public-records requests.

“Though we’ll have disagreements, what will define us is our ability to come together and provide solutions,” he said.

 

 

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The Nation

Diesel heads up 4 cents a gallon to $3.006

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Diesel prices jumped 4 cents a gallon to ring up Tuesday at $3.006. (The Trucker file photo)

For the past several months, including the end of 2018, all the “experts” said oil (and consequently diesel) was going nowhere but up. It had to, they reasoned, after prices had almost literally scraped the bottom of the barrel.

Then oil and diesel both went down for weeks. After that it stayed the same.

Now diesel prices are finally up — 4 cents a gallon — to $3.006 a gallon Tuesday from $2.966 a gallon last week.

Normally, diesel prices would have been announced Monday, but since it was President’s Day, diesel prices were released Tuesday.

And it may be a testament to how long prices had been going down or stayed flat that none of the U.S. Information Administration’s 10 reporting regions were clocking $4-a-gallon diesel, not even California, where diesel was ringing up at $3.739.

Also, four regions were still below $3 a gallon as of Tuesday.

And although 4 cents a gallon for the on-highway national average was a significant jump from the week before, the Lower Atlantic and Midwest regions each jumped 5.5 cents a gallon. Diesel in the Lower Atlantic sector went from $2.872 last week to $2.927 Tuesday while in the Midwest, diesel prices went from $2.849 last week to $2.904 today.

The Gulf Coast had the lowest prices at $2.809 a gallon, up 3.3 cents from the week prior.

Is this the start of an upward trend? It’s hard to know what oil prices will do in a global economy that is teetering since what seems like a bandwagon jump out of the European Union.

Meanwhile, oil was trading up:

U.S. crude added 48 cents to $56.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after gaining $1.19 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 16 cents to $66.34 per barrel, The Associated Press reported.

For diesel prices by sector, click here.

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The Nation

Ohio governor to reveal gas tax hike plan Thursday

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Ohio's tp Transportation Department executive says the state is facing an "impending crisis" unless more road funding is provided. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine says he’ll announce Thursday his proposed recommendation for increasing the state’s gas tax to deal with a chronic shortfall in spending on road construction.

DeWine, a Republican, says there are no other solutions outside a gas tax increase, while warning that any increase simply keeps Ohio from falling behind.

He wouldn’t provide details or say what the proposed increase will be. He spoke at an annual forum sponsored by The Associated Press.

DeWine says the increase is “just to keep us where we are today.”

The head of the Ohio Department of Transportation director said earlier this month that Ohio’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an “impending crisis” unless more funding is provided.

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The Nation

OOIDA Foundation issues information it says debunks driver shortage ‘myth’

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Most carriers with high turnover do so by design, says OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions,” he said.

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s research foundation published two new documents it says debunks the driver shortage “myth.”

A fact sheet explains how the industry isn’t afflicted with a shortage of drivers, but is actually plagued with overcapacity and driver retention, the foundation reported.

A second, accompanying document talks about how wages have decreased for truck drivers at large carriers and many have moved toward smaller fleets.

Last year, the association also created a short video that explains why there is high turnover as opposed to a shortage.

“We are concerned about the perpetuation of a myth of driver shortage,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA President. “This misinformation is used to push agendas that are harmful to the industry and highway safety.”

To address the supposed driver “shortage,” some organizations have suggested that the age requirement to obtain a commercial driver’s license should be lowered from 21 to 18.

“If safety is the top priority when considering a change to a regulation, when it comes to age, the number should be raised, not lowered.” Spencer said.

OOIDA also contends that any issue with retention could be mitigated with other solutions that would be safer for all highway users.

For example, compensation has been shown to be tied directly to highway safety, as revealed in studies that suggest there is a strong correlation between driver pay and highway safety, Spencer said.

“Most carriers with high turnover do so by design,” he said. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions. But putting younger drivers behind the wheel of a truck isn’t the solution because it does nothing to address the underlying issues that push drivers out of the industry. It merely exacerbates the churn.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Missouri, area.

 

 

 

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