Road funding on everyone's mind during state senate's brief return to session

The senate GOP leader is reportedly looking at a 20 cent-a-gallon gas tax hike to fix the roads phased in over time.

Back one day for a brief session, the Michigan Senate was in town and while it was not on the formal agenda, roads were on everybody's mind.

Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, has been linked to a possible 20 cent per gallon gas tax hike to be phased in over four to six years, designed to reduce the pain at the pump for Michigan motorists. The senator won't confirm any of this.

When House Speaker Lee Chatfield. R-Levering, held a caucus telephone conference call last week, somebody asked about the Shirkey gas tax hike and Chatfield said there was no support for that. But Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, debunks the idea, dismissing it as "bull."

"Bull. Mike never said that. My leader does not have any inclination of a 20 cent (gas tax) and it's confirmed the fact that rumors have it that this was is just a rumor and nothing more. Somebody leaked something out that made no sense," he said.

However, four sources confirm the story.

The Senate Democratic leader was not ready to endorse that gas tax hike, suggesting it was not enough.

"There's no point in raising taxes just enough to not fix the problem," said Sen. Jim Ananich. "It's a starting point but the ending point may come quickly"

Meanwhile, a coalition of business leaders who have supported raising new revenue for the roads for months with nothing to show for it, were in town, showing that roads are crumbling and it was time for lawmakers to act -- not just talk.

This business leader thinks the 25 cent figure is a good place to start.

"Anything that's substantial new revenue feels good right? That'll put us in a positive direction and it's still not enough. We know that it's going to take more than that, but let's at least get started," said Doug Rothell, CEO of Business Leaders Michigan

That's what the governor's been saying for months.