(ASSOCIATED PRESS) - The Michigan Legislature adjourned late Thursday for much of the summer without voting to pump more money into road improvements after talks broke down over a gradual gasoline tax increase.
Senators a day earlier had balked at a major plan to more than double fuel taxes over five years to fix deteriorating roads and bridges. An attempt to find support for a more modest proposal that would keep pace with inflationary construction costs never gained muster in the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday.
The bill would have let the 19-cents-a-gallon gas rise each year by whatever is less — 5 percent or the annual change in highway construction costs. Gas and diesel taxes could ultimately have gone as high as 32 ½ cents a gallon, though it could have been decades before the ceiling was hit.
It would not have come close to raising the minimum $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion more a year that Gov. Rick Snyder and others say is needed now to bring the transportation system up to par.
The Republican governor said he would not have been satisfied with the backup plan but would potentially have seen it as progress to help address the structural problem of declining fuel taxes — caused by people driving less and with more fuel-efficient cars.
"We've made a lot of progress. But it still needs time to coalesce to get a total solution," Snyder told reporters Thursday afternoon.
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, criticized majority Republicans and said it was "very frustrating" that road-funding talks over a comprehensive solution stalled and could continue over the summer and into the fall. Eight of 12 Democrats had signaled their support for more than doubling fuel taxes in exchange for a tax break for homeowners and renters on Wednesday, she said, while just nine of 26 Republicans did so.
"It's a lack of leadership. ... I think (Republicans) should work to get the votes that were promised and live up the original deal that was struck," she said.
Republicans, though, said Democrats should have helped pass the backup plan while work continues on a longer-term solution.
"The other side of the aisle didn't want to participate in fixing the problems that we could, the short-term problems," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Michigan — home to the headquarters of major U.S. auto companies — spends less per driver on roads than any other state, yet also has some of the country's highest taxes at the pump because the sales tax applied to motor fuel mostly goes to schools and local governments under the state constitution.