State Rep. Jim Haadsma was a guest on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins for the first time since taking office in January.   So how's it going so far?

"I enjoy it.  There's a lot to learn," said Haadsma.  "It's like a Swiss army knife of activity.  There's  lots of different things that are presented to you, lots of different organizations you never knew existed, and lobbyists you never knew about (working) for those organizations you never knew existed.  I'm learning a lot of things and its very satisfying to a guy with a lot of curiosity who likes to learn new things."

Haadsma says it's a real chaotic schedule right now.  "I'm still processing how to get the law firm practice well-calibrated, like Dr. Bizon did with his medical practice, with the legislative service.  You can't just stop practicing medicine or practicing law while you're running for office, so that is going on now too, so it's a really hectic schedule presently."

This week Governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed a 45-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase to pay for roads.  Five months ago, during a debate with candidate Bill Schuette, Whitmer denied she planned to push a 20-cent increase, calling the claim "ridiculous", telling Schuette that his assertion was "nonsense, and you know it."

When asked whether that hurts the Governor's credibility, Haadsma said, "Well I'm looking forward, I'm not looking backward at that which individuals argued during some debate during the gubernatorial campaign.....I think the governor will work with the legislature in good faith and we'll come up with a compromise."

When asked about road funding, Haadsma said, "First, I'd like to focus on what we can agree on across the aisle, and we all agree that the roads are in extraordinarily poor shape. We need some bold proposals. This is a start.  It doesn't mean that that's what we'll have at the end.  It's the start of a negotiations process."

Haadsma says he doesn't believe Whitmer ever promised that it would be like "I Dream of Jeannie" and it would happen without some kind of pain and some kind of an effort by all Michigan citizens.  He says there's no magic cure for a road situation that has evolved for over 40 years.  "It's like somebody who has had a diet of fried chicken, beer and cigarettes for 40 years and all of a sudden needs to work out.  And to put it another way, its like driving a car and never changing the oil and all of a sudden at 125,000 miles on the odometer, you need a new engine."

Haadsma says lawmakers heard testimony from MDOT that $2.1 billion would be needed, beyond what was created four years ago. State Budget Director Chris Kolb outlined several options to fund roads::

  • Raising vehicle registration fees by 180 percent
  • Creating a new statewide property tax of 7 mills.
  • Raising the state's individual income tax rater from 4.25 percent to 5.3 percent.
  • Raising the corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 19.5 percent.
  • 45 cent per gallon gas tax increase.

Haadsma says registration fees are already among the highest in the country and he doesn't think the state ought to go there.  He says raising the income tax or sales tax would not be as "user focused" as a gas tax hike. He said bonding is an option, but that wouldn't get us enough to get the roads improved to the extent that they need to be.

When asked if a gas tax would be regressive, and be extra hard on low and fixed income citizens, Haadsma said he supports a measure to repeal the pension tax on seniors, which would give them about $800 more per year. He says the Governor has proposed to double the earned-income tax credit.

"It's a difficult cod liver oil pill to swallow."