Road funding talks in flux at state Capitol
It looked like there might be a wave of bipartisan cooperation in Lansing. Lawmakers recently voted to raise the state’s minimum wage and contribute almost $200 million to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore with road funding negotiations in flux.
State lawmakers want to find a way to increase funding for roads in the next couple weeks. That’s when they leave Lansing for the summer.
A plan that would raise Michigan’s gas tax recently stalled in the state Senate. Democrats in that chamber say they’re not willing to support that legislation unless it includes protections for the poor.
“To date, the governor has been uninterested in negotiating,” said state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing. “And I think that’s unfortunate, because I do think that common ground can be found here, but he’s shown no willingness to do that.”
Whitmer says Democrats also want a guarantee from the state House that it will approve the legislation.
“When I hear leadership in the House say, ‘I don’t think we could ever get a tax of that magnitude passed,’ it really tempers our interest in trying to cast that vote because a one-house deal doesn’t do anything for people in the state of Michigan,” she said.
With the talks hitting snags, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he’s looking at a wide range of ways to boost state road funding.
“There might be something at the pumps, now,” said Richardville. “There might be a sales tax component. Maybe there’s a combination.”
Lawmakers last year considered raising the state’s sales tax to pay for roads. That, like all other comprehensive road funding proposals in recent years, never gained traction in the Legislature.
Richardville says he still thinks lawmakers can address the issue before their summer break.
The governor’s office says it is working closely with Republican and Democratic leaders to find a way to fix the roads.