There were feelings of optimism earlier this week in Lansing that the state Senate might just pass a road funding plan the House passed the week before.
But, once again, that optimism has fallen flat, as the House adjourned without a vote after about eight hours of discussion.
Neither Daniel Howes nor Rick Pluta are surprised that we’re still stuck on a roads fix.
Pluta tells us that “basically, once again, it got bogged down in details.”
“There’s also some concern about how much of this is going to be in fuel taxes and how much of this will be in registration fees,” he says.
On average, the proposed legislation would cost a regular driver an extra $40 per year.
Howes puts it in perspective: “I did a little checking. To get a cast aluminum, new replacement wheel for your Jeep Grand Cherokee would cost you $447 if you had a 20-incher. … My point is, this is a small amount of money here, and I think this has a lot more to do with the politics and essentially the pressure from the right … than anything else.”
Pluta tells us the argument isn’t over how much money, but rather how to collect it. It was suggested in the Senate that more people would be offended by a $40 or $50 hit once per year at registration as opposed to taking the same amount throughout the year via a fuel tax.
Howes says the continued stalemate says a lot about Republicans in both chambers. “It tells me they’re more worried about getting primaried than they are anything else,” he says.
“At this juncture Republicans are still looking to do this as essentially a Republican-only plan,” Pluta says. “Right now the focus is still playing with those numbers on the fuel tax and the registration fee.”
We’re now four years out from the first time Gov. Rick Snyder called on the Legislature to come up with a roads plan, and Howes tells us that the continued stalemate shows, “yet again, the limits of the governor’s ability to wield political power and to get his way with his own party.”
“He seemed to have – past tense – a lot of faith that he could simply go in and persuade people to adopt his logic,” Pluta says. “That’s not the way negotiating in the Capitol works.”
Former Senate majority leader Ken Sikkema has told Michigan Radio that this Legislature needs to get something done lest they start to look ineffective.
“I would put it a little more bluntly,” Howes says. “I would say people are going to start saying they can’t lead. … They’re riven ideologically and they can’t get things done. That is not a recipe for returning to a majority in the next election.”
Rick Pluta and Daniel Howes tell us more about the state of our Legislature's roads fix plan in our conversation above.