State Senate OKs gas tax hike for roads
LANSING – The Michigan Senate voted Nov. 13 to hike state gas taxes over the next four years, potentially raising more than $1 billion annually to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.
For the past two years and then on the day after he was re-elected, Gov. Rick Snyder has been pushing for the state Legislature to find more money for road repairs. MDOT has been calling for as much as $1.7 billion more per year. The Nov. 13 vote, which was adopted 23-14, is likely not the last word on the matter. It would still have to pass the House, and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said a 1 percent hike to the state’s 6 percent sales was still possible in the lame duck session, which ends in December .
This version has the wholesale gas tax rising from 9 percent on April 1, 2015 and gradually increasing to 15.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2018. The Senate took “a big step to show people we’re serious,” Richardville said. “If you’ve got an alternative, we’re going to take a look at it.” When the changes are fully realized, it would result in a gas price increase of 17 cents a gallon.
Construction seeing job, salary gains
U.S. construction employers added 12,000 jobs in October and the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent, the lowest rate for October since 2006, according to an analysis released Nov. 7 by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Construction employment totaled 6,095,000 in October, the highest total since May 2009, with a 12-month gain of 231,000 jobs or 3.9 percent.
“For the past several months, the construction industry has added jobs at double the all-industry rate of 1.9 percent rate,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Construction wages, which were already higher than the private-sector average, rose 2.6 percent in the last year – the fastest rate since early 2010 – as contractors ramped up their search for qualified workers.”
(U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports this year have consistently shown lower construction wage hikes in the organized sector at 2.0 percent).
AGC officials said a survey of nearly 1,100 member firms released in October showed 83 percent of respondents reported difficulty finding craft workers and 61 percent said other professional positions were hard to fill. As a result, association officials continued to urge federal, state and local officials to enact a series of measures the AGC identified that will make it easier for school districts, local associations and private firms to establish career and technical education and training programs.
“There were fewer unemployed, experienced construction workers last month than at any time in the past eight years,” Simonson said. “Meanwhile, all construction employees worked an average of 39.2 hours per week, tying the highest mark since that series began in March 2006. Together, these indicators-high weekly hours, low unemployment and accelerating wage gains – point to an industry that may be on the verge of acute difficulty filling key positions.”