Politics & Government
8:50 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Week in Michigan politics: Detroit's grand bargain, UAW dues, and roads

Credit JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss how lawmakers approved giving $195 million to Detroit, the state of the United Auto Workers after members agreed to raise fees for the first time in nearly 50 years, and why lawmakers can't agree on road funding. 


Lawmakers approve giving state money to Detroit

Legislation to give almost $200 million to Detroit is now headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. The money is to prevent deep cuts to retiree pensions and the sale of art from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

But Lessenberry says this is not a done deal. While Gov. Snyder will sign the bill, active city workers and retirees have to vote to approve small but significant cuts to their pensions by July 11. Finally, U.S. bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes has to approve the deal.

UAW raises dues

The United Auto Workers voted yesterday to raise dues for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Lessenberry says the union is in crisis. He says membership was nearly four times higher in the 1970s. The majority of the members that remain do not work in the auto industry.

“Unless things change by maybe the end of next year, there will be more auto workers in this country who are not members of the UAW than ones who are,” Lessenberry says.

Why can't we agree on roads?

Legislators still cannot agree on road funding. There was even a special Senate meeting Monday to discuss road funding and nothing seemed to move forward. Lawmakers acted fast last week when it came to minimum wage legislation, yet road funding has been in the news for months now and no real action has been taken. What's the holdup?

Lessenberry says the House and Senate have two different ideas on how roads should be funded.

The Senate wants to raise gas taxes to eventually produce around $1.5 billion a year.

The House wants to gather around $400 million in existing revenues. Lessenberry says that money would only be enough to “throw some asphalt in some potholes.”

Lessenberry says one thing that hasn’t been talked about much is to increase registration fees for large trucks “which are the main culprits in pounding our roads into gravel.”

The question now is if lawmakers can come up with a compromise.

“These lawmakers want to break to run for reelection and they don’t want to break to run for reelection, many of them, having just raised people’s taxes,” Lessenberry says. “But on the other hand, polls show that fixing the roads is the one thing that people are willing to pay taxes for.”