LANSING, Mich. (June 10, 2014) – As summer break quickly approaches for state lawmakers, legislative leaders still have their sights set on a deal to fund a fix for Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Some in Lansing say Thursday is the deadline, and while lawmakers say that would be ideal, it doesn’t guarantee action.
“I’m term limited now, but I wouldn’t want to be going home this summer and say I didn’t do anything to fix the roads,” said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe). “It doesn’t make sense to come back this summer because that’s when (road crews) have to do the work.”
A package of bills is sitting in the Senate that would raise more than $1.5 billion by gradually increasing the percentage tax on gasoline and ending a rebate on new vehicle registration fees, among other things.
“The gas tax is simple and straight forward,” Richardville said. “The part of that that’s good is if we have that vote, we can do it right here in the House and the Senate and the Senate to the governor and it goes into effect.”
Richardville has also floated the idea of increasing the state sales tax by 1 percent.
“That money would go directly into the roads as if it was part of the Public Act 51 formula,” said Richardville.
If that measure was approved by lawmakers, it would then also need to be approved by voters before taking effect. To get that done, legislators would need to put it on the November ballot.
Democrats have been reluctant to support a deal that carries such a large tax without some relief for low-income Michiganders.
“We’ve been very consistent about saying we’ve gotta have some tax relief before we even entertain voting for a new tax like this,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing).
The Democrat is not among those interested in being tied to a Thursday deadline.
“I would imagine everyone who’s watching this right now knows that if your job’s not done, you go back to work, even if it’s after 5 or its on a weekend,” Whitmer said.
Any deal approved in the Senate would also need to be passed by the House before heading to Gov. Snyder’s desk.
“We keep getting asked if we’re ready to plant our flag,” said House Speaker Jase Bolger. We don’t even know what mountain we’re climbing, yet.”
Bolger says he needs something from the Senate before he reacts.