Michigan governor, GOP leadership kick of 2020 with major disagreement over gas tax

Michigan lawmakers return for the 2020 legislative session but begin the year with a major disagreement between the governor and the two GOP legislative leaders over an alleged promise to raise the gas tax to fix the roads.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she had a commitment from the two GOP leaders to raise the gas tax to fix the roads. But House Speaker Lee Chatfield says the governor's got that all wrong. It's not exactly a great way to start the new legislative session.

The dispute began last May on Mackinac Island where Whitmer and the two Republican leaders, Chatfield and Sen. Mike Shirkey, were jubilant over her signature on the no-fault car insurance package.

Over the holidays at the executive residence, the governor disclosed for the first time that after she helped them on their no-fault plan, they pledged to help her with a gas tax hike to fix the roads.

"No one ever said we're going to support a 45 cent gas tax increase but the Senate indicated that 'yes, they thought they would be able to support some sort of a gas tax increase,'" Whitmer said.

She reports the speaker said maybe to the gas tax if the sales tax at the pump was redirected to roads.  

Whitmer: Increasing gas tax will allow money to go back to schools

"They had their own conditions but everyone signaled, especially at that time, this was next up and we were going to find some common ground on this," Whitmer said.

But the speaker saw that interview and from Petoskey, his office issued this statement refuting the governor's claim: "What she said isn't true. The only commitment was to discuss roads after no-fault was done."

So it's she said, he said to start the new year -- some would say not the best way to kick off the new legislative year.