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House Leadership Shopping For Votes On $600M/$600M Road Plan

August 17, 2015

Republican House leadership is working on rounding up votes in its caucus for a long-term road funding compromise with the Senate that includes raising $600 million in new revenue while using $600 million in existing revenue.

The hope is to pull together the votes needed to vote on a plan next week, but leaders haven’t finished tagging the 55 necessary “yes” votes in the conservative Republican caucus. Last month’s attempt scrounge up votes for something other than the original House plan that called for $117 million in new revenue failed to generate the needed support.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) is in the process of putting the votes together for a plan that is similar to Rep. Rick Outman’s (R-Six Lakes) “simple compromise” on roads that included using higher gas taxes and driver registration fees to raise $300 million a piece.

Such a move would mean a 5-cent higher gas tax. As far as the registration fee piece, Outman liked Rep. Pete Pettalia’s (R-Presque Isle) idea of freezing registration fees for the first three years and then reduce them for the next seven years until they reach a certain fixed level that would be less than what they would be today after 10 years. 

It’s not clear where the money would come from within existing state revenue, but Outman noted that $400 million had been reprioritized in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 for roads and that lawmakers need only find $200 million more. 

The earmarking of where the existing dollars would come from is critical to garnering Gov. Rick Snyder’s support since the accountant has expressed a desire to identify new cost pressures now as opposed to challenging future legislators to figuring out where the money is coming from later. 

Identifying where this $600 million in existing revenue is coming from is also something Democrats will need to know before their members can vote for such a plan, MIRS has learned. 

If the votes come together, the bills that came over from the Senate could be substituted with the new plan. The Senate passed in July a $1.4 billion road funding plan that raises the gas tax 15 cents to raise between $700 and $800 million a year while reprioritizing existing state revenue to make up the rest.

“I’d love to get this done,” Outman said. “I don’t care who gets the credit. This just needs to get done.” 

Another road funding plan apparently is in circulation among House Republicans that reflects already debated ideas. 

Snyder and the legislative quadrant are planning to meet Tuesday to discuss this and presumably other subjects. 

“I’m optimistic,” said Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit). “If leadership of both caucuses have been working throughout the summer to get to a point of compromise, we have a reasonable shot.” 

Snyder has suggested a road fix pass the legislature before Labor Day and the head of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce said it should. 

“They need to come back to Lansing this month and take legislative action to fix the roads before Labor Day,” said Chamber CEO Rich Studley. “There is no good reason why this issue can’t be resolved before Labor Day.” 

Studley said he’s been in conversation with all four of the legislative leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) over the last several weeks and while no deal has emerged, he said he thinks the Republicans still want to do this on their own without Democratic support. 

“We have the book ends (for an agreement) and plenty of room to compromise, based on what the Senate did and what the House has proposed,” he said. However Studley said he wants no part in the type of logrolling and horse-trading that created the Proposal 1 compromise of lame duck.  

Snyder told The Detroit News this week he is concerned that once you move too far past Labor Day, it gets tougher for House members to vote for new revenue as they move into the next election cycle of 2016. Studley opined, “on the Labor Day deadline, we have not thrown in the towel on the legislative process.” 

Republican consultant Jamie Roe suggested the Governor should “take a lower number” of what he’d like to raise through a tax increase because “finding revenue with a tax hike I think is very difficult to get” given the opposition of some Tea Party members and those who signed the no-tax pledge. 

“Take what you can get,” Roe said and work later on for more money. 

With former Rep. Brandon Dillon resigning to become the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, Republicans now need 55 votes, not 56, to pass a road-funding plan.

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