FILE - Michigan road construction

Road construction in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in July 2019 closes southbound Livernois and slows down traffic.

When State Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, introduced HB 4963, he wanted to let local governments choose if they wanted to fix their own “damn roads.”

O’Malley told The Center Square that his bill allows for a local option fuel tax at the county level if it’s placed on the ballot and passed by voters.

That revenue would be distributed to local road agencies based on population and road length.

“Every dime of that would go to the local roads – not Michigan Department of Transportation, or anything else – it would stay in your community and fix your roads,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley said that the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRCM) research confirmed that Michigan is the most restrictive state in raising revenue, which is allowed only by a millage or a property tax.

Eric Lupher, president of CRCM, told The Center Square that Michigan is an outlier state because it uses property taxes as the main vehicle to fund road repairs for local government.

Michigan’s property tax is already among one of the highest in the nation, Lupher said, adding that the flow of money to local governments to fix roads has been choked off as the state fell behind on paying debts.

O’Malley said that left some local roads closest to constituents in disrepair.

“I could argue, and quite handily, that the worst roads are the local roads,” O’Malley said, adding that these bills would give local government more flexibility.

“Instead, of a 75 primary-25 secondary split, how about if you’re following your asset mapping plan, you spend that money where your community needs it,” O’Malley said. “We don’t need to tell you where to use it.”

Lupher said that about 12 states authorized local option fuel taxes and around 33 states have vehicle registration fees.

“The bills could be ways of having taxpayers in each community know that a portion of the taxes they’re paying at the pump or for their vehicles are staying in their community and will be used to fix the roads that they drive on the most, as opposed to sending them across the state,” Lupher said.

O’Malley said they’ll discuss the package in the House Transportation Committee, which he chairs, next week.

“I think everybody appreciates that we’re talking about common sense things here that don’t have a Republican or a Democrat label on it: it’s just a really good sense for the people,” he said.

Staff Writer

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.