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Michigan Democrat wants businesses, trucks to pay more for road repair

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Michigan House Minority Leader Christine Greig says new ideas need to be brought to the table for how to fund road repairs in the state. She and her colleagues have introduced a proposal that would increase corporate taxes and institute a 6-cents-a-mile tax on heavy trucks and a bridge toll on tractor trailers. (AP: David Eggert)

LANSING, Mich. — With state Republicans lawmakers firmly opposed to a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike, Democrats want businesses to do more to help fix the state’s roads.

A new $1.2 billion proposal from House Democrats would raise the state’s corporate tax, create a new 6-cents-a-mile tax for heavy trucks and charge bridge tolls to tractor trailers. It also includes portions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget plan, such as raising taxes on certain businesses so they are taxed the same as traditional corporations and restoring tax breaks for pensioners.

House Minority Leader Christine Greig said Democrats agree with the Democratic governor’s call for $2.5 billion in new revenue and know that a fuel tax increase would likely be part of any final deal.

“We just felt it was important that we brought other ideas in since we haven’t seen anything other than a shell game and shifting around revenue from the Republicans, but yet they’ve said that they’re not going to support a 45-cent gas increase. So let’s put some new ideas on the table to get us to the $2.5 billion,” she said Friday.

By releasing the plan, Democrats risked looking like they oppose Whitmer’s fuel tax hike, which Republicans, who control the Legislature, have said is going nowhere and which Democrats have not introduced as legislation. Greig said Democrats are “100% supportive” of generating new revenue and their proposal is based on feedback from constituents.

“We just think that if you’re really struggling to a negotiation, that implies that you bring a bunch of different ideas and come up with a compromise,” she said.

Some in the business lobby have said raising gasoline and diesel taxes is simple and fair because everyone pays, including companies that move goods or have employees on the roads. But Greig said what they pay is not “proportionate.”

“To attract business, to attract talent, to keep our communities strong that support businesses, we have to have good roads and bridges,” she said, noting that businesses saw a $1 billion-plus tax cut under a 2011 overhaul enacted by Republicans. “Since that happened, we’ve seen our roads and infrastructure deteriorate. We’ve seen our ranking in schools drop nationally. So something is not right. To put this all on the backs of individuals is shortsighted.”

Increasing the 6% corporate income tax to 8.5% and raising taxes on flow-through entities, Greig said, would lead to businesses paying $800 million more annually — but still less than they were before the 2011 change. Assessing a vehicle-miles-traveled tax on the two heaviest classes of trucks would generate $390 million from those who cause the most road damage, she said, while the bridge tolls — based on a unique program in Rhode Island — would raise about $50 million.

Road-funding and budget negotiations are expected to extend into the summer as legislators scale back their voting days starting this coming week.

Greig urged the business community to “come to the table and say, ‘We will accept contributing more directly to the solution.’”

Republicans and business groups oppose raising business taxes, however, saying lower taxes help the economy. To soften the impact of a 45-cent gas tax increase by easing the tax burden on seniors, Whitmer has proposed boosting taxes on 150,000 corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies whose income is passed through to the entities’ owners and taxed at the personal rate of 4.25 percent. The Senate’s Republican leader has called it “stupid.”

So far, the main component to emerge from Republicans’ road-funding work is a budget plan in the House that would ultimately ensure $850 million in sales tax being collected at the pump goes to roads, without raising taxes. The revenue now primarily is dedicated to schools and municipalities.

Greig said it is “confusing” that a portion of fuel taxes funds other priorities and she has no problem “cleaning up revenue streams.” But new revenue should be generated to replace it, she said.

“They’re not doing that. That’s the problem,” she said. “We’re basically doing it on the backs of local governments and kids, frankly.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Craig Matte

    June 28, 2019 at 5:52 am

    Just another tax and spend Democrat. Surprised anyone? You shouldn’t be.

    • MrBigR504

      June 30, 2019 at 7:33 am

      Damn shame And a Dem from Michigan of all states talking about raising taxes? Michigan needs all the friends and businesses it can get right about now!

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The Nation

Speeding tops list of citations issued during Operation Safe Driver Week

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According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, speeding has been a factor in more than a quarter of crash deaths since 2008. During Operation Safe Driver Week, 1,454 citations were issued to CMV drivers for speeding-related violations. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

GREENBELT, Md. — During the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Operation Safe Driver Week July 14-20, commercial vehicle enforcement personnel in Canada and the United States took to North America’s roadways to identify drivers engaging in unsafe driving behaviors and issue citations and/or warnings.

Officers issued 46,752 citations and 87,624 warnings to drivers for traffic enforcement violations, ranging from speeding to failure to wear a seatbelt.

Drivers’ actions contribute to 94% of all traffic crashes.

The Operation Safe Driver Week enforcement initiative is the commercial motor vehicle law enforcement community’s response to this transportation safety issue.

Through traffic safety initiatives, such as Operation Safe Driver Week, law enforcement personnel aim to deter negative driver behaviors and reduce the number of crashes involving large trucks, motorcoaches and passenger vehicles by identifying and citing drivers exhibiting risky driving behaviors and tendencies.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, speeding has been a factor in more than a quarter of crash deaths since 2008. In response to this alarming trend, CVSA selected speeding as the emphasis area for this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week. Speeding/violations of the basic speed law/driving too fast for conditions was the most cited violation this year with 17,556 total citations. Passenger vehicle drivers were issued 16,102 citations and 21,001 warnings, and CMV drivers received 1,454 citations and 2,126 warnings.

As part of this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week, law enforcement agencies and motor carriers throughout North America promoted and supported the following message, Late won’t kill you, speeding will, by distributing postcards provided by CVSA. Motor carriers and law enforcement distributed nearly 12,000 postcards in the weeks leading up to Operation Safe Driver Week.

The top 10 driver-behavior citations (and warnings) given to CMV drivers were as follows:

  1. Speeding/violation of basic speed law/driving too fast for conditions: 1,454 citations, 2,126 warnings.
  2. Failure to wear a seatbelt: 954, 586.
  3. Failure to obey a traffic control device: 436, 871.
  4. Using a handheld phone/testing: 249, 170.
  5. Improper lane change: 92, 194.
  6. Following too closely” 57, 143.
  7. Possession/use/under influence of alcohol and/or drugs: 55, 18.
  8. Improper passing: 41, 30.
  9. Inattentive, careless and/or reckless driving: 32, 55.
  10. Operating CMV while ill or fatigued: 25, 45.

The top 10 driver-behavior citations (and warnings) given to passenger vehicle drivers were as follows:

  1. Speeding/violation of basic speed law/driving too fast for conditions: 16,102 citations, 21,001 warnings.
  2. Failure to wear a seatbelt: 1,794, 773.
  3. Failure to obey traffic control device: 540, 1,063
  4. Inattentive, careless and/or reckless driving: 517, 484.
  5. Possession/use/under influence of alcohol and/or drugs: 503, 2.
  6. Using a handheld phone/testing: 415, 400.
  7. Improper lane change: 352, 1,226.
  8. Failure to yield right of way: 297, 198.
  9. Improper passing: 280, 723.
  10. Following too closely: 188, 853.

Failure to wear a seatbelt was the second highest violation for both types of drivers – CMV and passenger vehicle.

There were 954 CMV drivers and 1,794 passenger vehicle drivers received citations for not wearing a seatbelt. Buckling up is the single most effective thing vehicle drivers and passengers can do to protect themselves in the event of a crash. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2016 Safety Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Survey found that seatbelt usage among CMV drivers was 86.1%. Among passenger vehicle drivers, the national seatbelt use rate was 89.6% in 2018. In Canada, 95% of vehicle occupants wear seatbelts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, short-term, high-visibility enforcement, such as CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver Week, combined with media coverage, is particularly effective for reaching people who typically don’t use seat belts regularly.

Drunk driving crashes claim nearly 11,000 lives per year and NHTSA’s National Roadside Survey found that 20% of surveyed drivers tested positive for potentially impairing drugs. During all roadside interactions with the public, law enforcement personnel are trained to look for evidence of driver impairment by alcohol or drugs – legal or illegal. During this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week, 33 CMV drivers were cited for possession/use/under influence of drugs; 22 received citations for possession/use/under influence of alcohol. 159 passenger vehicle drivers were cited for possession/use/under influence of drugs and 344 were cited for possession/use/under influence of alcohol. Possession/use/under influence of alcohol and/or drugs was the fifth most cited violation for passenger vehicle drivers (503). It was the seventh most cited violation for CMV drivers (55).

In 2017, there were 3,166 distraction-related fatal crashes in the U.S. and distracted driving contributed to an estimated 21% of fatal collisions in Canada in 2016. Distractions include anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road, such as talking or texting on a cellphone, eating, talking with passengers, adjusting vehicle or navigations controls, etc. During Operation Safe Driver Week, 249 citations and 170 warnings were given to CMV drivers for using a handheld phone/texting while operating the vehicle; 416 citations and 400 warnings were given to passenger vehicle drivers.

“Although CVSA is an organization focused on commercial motor vehicle safety, we know that if we want to prevent crashes involving commercial motor vehicles and passenger vehicles, it’s important that we focus on both types of vehicles and drivers,” said CVSA President Chief Jay Thompson with the Arkansas Highway Police. “Operation Safe Driver Week is our effort to focus on driver behaviors, the leading cause of crashes. We hope that contact with law enforcement during this traffic safety initiative helps to combat dangerous driver behaviors in the future, ultimately making our roadways safer.”

While Operation Safe Driver Week is an enforcement operation focused on driver behaviors, during a traffic stop, an officer may notice and issue citations or warnings for vehicle-related issues. Such violations are noted as state/local driver violations on law enforcement’s reporting documentation. During this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week, passenger vehicle drivers received 16,050 state/local driver citations and 29,145 warnings, and CMV drivers received state/local driver 6,170 citations and 27,163 warnings. Examples of state/local driver violations include vehicle-related observations, such as mirror equipment violations, expired license plate tags, non-working lamps, etc.

Operation Safe Driver Week is sponsored by CVSA, in partnership with FMCSA and with support from industry and transportation safety organizations. The initiative aims to help improve the behavior of all drivers operating in an unsafe manner – either in or around commercial motor vehicles – through educational and traffic enforcement strategies to address individuals exhibiting high-risk driving behaviors.

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U.S. economy could shrug off oil prices if disruption is brief

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A gallon of regular in the U.S. stood at $2.59 on Tuesday, up 3 cents from the previous day, according to the AAA auto club. Analysts warned that pump prices could rise as much as 25 cents in the coming weeks, but it all depends on how quickly Saudi Arabia returns to normal production. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

DALLAS  — The price of gasoline crept higher after a weekend attack devastated Saudi Arabian oil output, but if the disruption to global supplies is short-lived, the impact on the U.S. economy will probably be modest.

Prices spiked Monday by more than 14%, their biggest single-day jump in years, but retreated Tuesday, reversing some of the increase. U.S. oil fell nearly 5% to $59.96 a barrel, while Brent, the international benchmark, dropped 5.3% to $65.34.

A gallon of regular in the U.S. stood at $2.59 on Tuesday, up 3 cents from the previous day, according to the AAA auto club. Analysts warned that pump prices could rise as much as 25 cents in the coming weeks, but it all depends on how quickly Saudi Arabia returns to normal production.

Tuesday’s reversal in prices came as Saudi Arabia’s energy minister reported that 50% of the production cut by the attack had been restored. Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said full production would resume by the end of the month.

Even before Tuesday’s reversal in prices, economists downplayed the prospect that the price spike could send the economy reeling. After all, Monday’s surge only put prices back where they had been in May.

The attack knocked about 5% of the world crude supply offline. Oil prices have been trending mostly lower since spring because of concern about weak demand due to slowing economic growth.

Analysts say oil prices did not fully account for the risk posed by tension in the Middle East, but they will now. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed credit for the strike on Saudi oil facilities, but the Trump administration blamed Iran itself. The attack exposed the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.

Higher oil prices mean more costly gasoline, and that will sap consumers’ ability to spend on clothes, travel and restaurant meals. It will hit people who drive for a living.

Brian Alectine, a New York-based driver for the ride-hailing apps Lyft and Juno, said a 5- or 10-cent bump in the price of gasoline wouldn’t be too bad, but an increase of 25 cents a gallon would make it hard to earn a profit after expenses, including the monthly rent on the car he drives for work.

“The more you drive, the more gas you use,” Alectine said. “It will have a big impact.”

AAA said the nationwide average price of gasoline could rise 25 cents this month. Patrick DeHaan, an analyst for price-tracking app GasBuddy, predicted an increase of 10 to 20 cents a gallon. He saw reports of price spikes and people rushing to top off their tanks.

“I’m not sure where this panic is coming from,” DeHaan said. “There will be an increase, but prices will still remain over a dollar cheaper than they were earlier this decade.”

Any drag on the economy from lower consumer spending would be at least partially offset by increased investment in oil and gas production, according to several leading economists.

Gregory Daco, chief economist at Oxford Economics, estimated that the net effect could be a decline of about one-tenth of a percentage point in U.S. economic growth, which was 2.0% in the second quarter.

“An oil price shock will weigh on consumer spending and will add a further strain on the global economy, but we’re not talking about a major price shock at this level,” he said, while acknowledging that the situation could escalate if tension increases between the U.S. and Iran — a major producer whose output has been greatly squeezed by Trump administration sanctions.

U.S. crude poked above $100 a barrel in stretches between 2011 and mid-2014, yet the economy did not fall into recession. Brent peaked above $140 a barrel in July 2008, which some economists believe was an overlooked contributor to the Great Recession, which is more often linked to a financial crisis and, in the U.S., a housing-market bubble. Brent more than doubled in a few months after Iraq invaded Kuwait, another large oil producer, in 1990.

The United States was far more dependent on imported oil in 1990. Saudi Arabia remains the world’s biggest oil exporter, but the United States recently eclipsed both Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest producer.

That makes the impact of higher oil prices on the U.S. economy much more mixed. Even as consumers and certain industries pay more for fuel, higher oil prices will be good for the U.S. energy industry and states where oil is produced, including Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota.

The stock market has highlighted which sectors will be helped or hurt by higher oil prices. On Monday, shares of oil producers surged, naturally, while stocks in airline, cruise and retail companies generally fell. Delivery giants UPS and FedEx dipped. They consume lots of fuel, and their business will suffer if higher energy prices cause consumers to reduce their online shopping.

For airlines, fuel is their second biggest cost behind only labor. Airlines were surprisingly adept at adapting to the last big run-up in fuel prices, but it takes them time to raise fares high enough to cover the extra cost.

American Airlines burned more than 4.4 billion gallons of fuel last year at a cost of nearly $10 billion, including taxes. On Monday, its shares fell 7.3%, more sharply than other carriers. Unlike most others, American doesn’t buy derivative investments as a hedge against fuel spikes, and its relatively heavy debt load leaves it vulnerable if the economy slows for any reason, including a jump in energy prices.

American estimates that over a full year, each penny increase in the price of fuel costs it $45 million. The price went up about 15 cents a gallon over the weekend.

If the fuel price increase persists for even a few weeks, analysts said, it could cause airlines to rethink their aggressive growth plans for 2020.

Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, said U.S. consumers are in good shape to handle a temporary increase in gasoline prices — with some savings, a tight job market and accelerating wage growth. Consumer psychology, however, can be difficult to predict.

“I don’t think this increase in oil prices … would be enough to single-handedly tip us into a recession,” he said. “The one cause for concern is that the consumer is carrying the economy. If the consumer starts to pack it in, the recession odds increase quite significantly.”

 

 

 

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EPA set to end California’s ability to regulate fuel economy

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California's authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California's fuel economy standards. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy.

Conservative and free-market groups have been asked to attend a formal announcement of the rollback set for Wednesday afternoon at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington.

Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Tuesday that her group was among those invited to the event featuring EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The move comes after the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four automakers for tougher pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by President Donald Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage standards nationwide, weakening a key effort by his Democratic predecessor to slow climate change.

Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action to stop the rollback.

The White House declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to EPA. EPA’s press office did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.

But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that the Trump administration would move “in the very near future” to take steps toward establishing one nationwide set of fuel-economy standards.

“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” he said, adding that higher fuel economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more electric vehicles.

Word of the pending announcement came as Trump traveled to California on Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

California’s authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California’s fuel economy standards.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that the Trump administration’s action will hurt both U.S. automakers and American families. He said California would fight the administration in federal court.

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the White House “has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming.”

“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” said Newsom, a Democrat.

The deal struck in July between California and four of the world’s largest automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — bypassed the Trump administration’s plan to freeze emissions and fuel economy standards adopted under Obama at 2021 levels.

The four automakers agreed with California to reduce emissions by 3.7% per year starting with the 2022 model year, through 2026. That compares with 4.7% yearly reductions through 2025 under the Obama standards. Emissions standards are closely linked with fuel economy requirements because vehicles pollute less if they burn fewer gallons of fuel.

The U.S. transportation sector is the nation’s biggest single source of planet-warming greenhouse gasses.

Wheeler said Tuesday: “California will be able to keep in place and enforce programs to address smog and other forms of air pollution caused by motor vehicles.” But fuel economy has been one of the key regulatory tools the state has used to reduce harmful emissions.

Environmentalists condemned the Trump administration’s expected announcement.

“Everyone wins when we adopt strong clean car standards as our public policy,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “Strong clean car standards give us healthier air to breathe, help protect us from the urgent threat of climate change and save Americans hundreds of dollars a year in gas expenses.”

 

 

 

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