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Senate R’s hold first road funding discussion

June 8, 2015

With the budget essentially in the rearview mirror, the upper chamber is turning its attention to the elephant in the room.

After session Thursday, the Senate spent most of the day caucusing in the first of what will likely be at least four weekly meetings, said Amber McCANN, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive). 

As for the timing of a Senate road plan, McCann said she would be “surprised” if a full-blown plan was announced before July. 

House Speaker Kevin COTTER’s $1 billion road funding plan, which primarily relies on existing state money, moved to the full floor from a House panel Wednesday (See “Cotter’s $1B Road Plan, Debate Motor On To House Floor,” 6/3/15).  

Gov. Rick SNYDER said Wednesday he would wait to see what type of road funding solutions pass the House and Senate before he engages too deeply in the debate. Snyder has been a proponent of increasing $1.2 billion in additional “users fees” to cover the roads, but has recently expressed an openness to consider some spending reductions for roads. 

Senate Finance Committee Chair Jack BRANDENBURG (R-Harrison Twp.) wasn’t a big fan of increasing taxes or fees last year before the legislative passage of what became Proposal 1. He hasn’t changed his tune since after the road funding ballot proposal went down 80 to 20 percent. 

“Start with cuts,” Brandenburg said. “Who says we need an additional $1.2 billion in road repair?” 

Snyder is getting his information from the Michigan Department of Transportation, which hasn’t been enforcing its warranties properly, he said. 

“Suppose you only come up with $600 million over and above what we have? Put it toward roads. You come up $700 million the next year? Put it toward roads, and roll with that,” he said. 

Brandenburg said the House plan, which counts on future state revenue growth, has merit — particularly since the domestic automakers that fuel Michigan’s economy, say they are looking at higher profits. Moving some money from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and scratching the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), another element in Cotter’s plan, also sounds good to him. 

However, Brandenburg stopped at any idea of scrapping the MEDC. He said someone still needs to be around to take care of the Big 3 domestic automakers, who have taken care of Michigan’s economy for so many years. 

“You have to take care of these people because there are plenty of places to go and other people are playing this game,” he said.

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