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Without a deal this week, road funding talks may have to wait until the fall

Jul 20, 2015

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state House is scheduled to meet one day this week to try and reach a compromise on road funding.

If a deal doesn’t get done on Tuesday, talks may have to wait until the fall. The House is scheduled to begin a month-long break on Wednesday.

State officials say the longer the talks drag on, the more expensive it gets to fix the state’s crumbling roads.

“The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost us,” said Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle.

“We could pay now or pay more later. And, frankly, we’re getting to the point where it’s about to be pay more later.”

For almost four years, Steudle and Gov. Rick Snyder have said lawmakers must boost road funding by at least $1.2 billion a year to keep the roads from getting worse. Groups representing construction workers say the number is closer to $2 billion.

Steudle points out lawmakers have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in one-time money into the roads this year.

“But on a larger scale, the whole system is still continuing to decline,” he said.

State House Republicans appear to be divided on raising taxes to boost road funding. The state Senate approved a plan that would raise the state’s gas tax by 15 cents a gallon over three years. That proposal would eventually boost road funding by about $1.5 billion a year.