ROADS/BRIDGES: Michigan roads about to pay political price?

Lack of reconciliation in the state legislature looks to scuttle $1.2 billion deal

News December 19, 2014
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Failure to negotiate a potential tax increase aimed at improving Michigan’s deteriorating roads may have a major impact on the state’s infrastructure planning in 2015—and beyond. Lawmakers are set to adjourn for the year this week and thus far talks have produced nothing tangible for which to proceed into next year’s session, despite leaders’ claims of thoughtful progress.
 
Following the November elections, two separate plans were passed respectively in the Senate and House, the former more than doubling the present 19 cents per gallon gas and 15 cents per gallon diesel fuel tax over the next four years, while the latter calls for the elimination of the 6% sales tax on fuel by 2020 and increases per gallon gas and diesel taxes by the same percentage, effectively shifting the source but not the return. The House plan means to avert a tax increase by siphoning funds meant for schools and local government for road and bridge construction.
 
Gov. Rick Synder now faces the challenge of reconciling the rank-and-file members of his own Republican party toward a compromise that can see passage in both legislative halls. With talks resuming today, Synder told members of the press, “There was positive progress moving things forward.” Synder proceeded to count off the five points of contention that needed satiation: generating $1.2 billion for roads, not harming K-12 and municipal budgets, ensuring all taxes at the gas pump go to transportation projects, keeping fuel prices in check, and making sure a tax increase does not disproportionately affect lower- and middle-class citizens and families. "We're heading in a direction where it may be possible to check those boxes," he said.
 
It can said, despite the aforementioned lack of tangible progress, that the across-the-aisle reach is not being met by a closed hand. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) told reporters, "This is an enormous problem that deserves a thoughtful solution. When you're running up against the clock, it makes it much more difficult to make sure that you come up with something comprehensive. I'm still at the table and I'm still dedicated to trying to make this work."

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