In case you missed it, on Tuesday Senate Republicans presented their transportation budget proposal which completely removes Governor Whitmer’s 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase, while finding more money for Michigan roads. However, instead of embracing the plan Governor Whitmer has decided to double down on hypocrisy.
Whitmer often says that, "doing nothing is not an option." However, Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said in a statement, "If this plan reaches her desk, the governor will veto it."
So, doing nothing is not an option, but the Governor will veto the additional road funding in the Senate roads budget?
It’s time for the Governor to stop with the veto threats and to work with Republicans to find a way to fix Michigan roads without her job killing 45-cent gas tax increase.
More info in the articles below.
Lansing — Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday threatened to veto a Michigan Senate budget bill after Republicans stripped all potential revenue from a 45-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase she is proposing to "fix the damn roads."
The transportation budget advanced by a Senate appropriations subcommittee would instead “accelerate” $132 million in future road repair spending by completing implementation of a 2015 funding law signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder.
The proposed budget bump is a far cry from Whitmer’s $2.5 billion gas tax plan, which would generate $1.9 billion a year in new road funding revenue and free up other money for K-12 schools.
Senate Republicans oppose the governor's plan to raise fuel taxes 171 percent to 71.3 cents a gallon, which would give Michigan the highest rate in the nation. But they plan to develop an alternative long-term road funding solution independently of the budget.
“I don’t think there’s any credible government or association or business that plans a budget with money they don’t have,” said Sen. Pete MacGregor, R-Rockford. “I think this budget is a sound budget, right now, with the revenue we have coming in.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, has acknowledged the need for some new revenue to support Michigan roads, which are projected to continue deteriorating despite the plan signed by Snyder four years ago that included a 7-cent gas tax hike and registration increases.
The Senate GOP hopes to unveil its own long-term road funding plan this summer, but the budget bill advanced Tuesday in a party-line vote is “cowardly,” said Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Beverly Hills.
“I think they’re being chicken, I really do,” Bayer said. “They are taking the cowardly way out and trying to avoid this, that fact that we need to raise money.”
Democratic lawmakers have not introduced any gas tax legislation to complement Whitmer’s budget proposal, but Bayer said she would “vote for a tax increase that gets us to where we have enough money to fix the roads.”
Lawmakers hope to complete their 2020 spending plan this summer. But Whitmer has said she will not sign a budget that doesn't include “real” plan to fix the roads, setting up a potential standoff ahead of the Oct. 1 balanced budget deadline required by the Michigan Constitution.
Michigan's deteriorating roads "are hurting business, tourism and motorists, and the public is demanding action," Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said in a statement.
"The governor stands ready to work with the Legislature, but the Senate budget passed today won't do anything to actually fix the roads and could actually make things worse. If this plan reaches her desk, the governor will veto it."
Shirkey downplayed the Senate budget move in an afternoon interview on WJR-AM 760, emphasizing the reality that talks will continue. He agreed the state needs to “find and spend more money” on roads on a perpetual basis.
“People should be just comfortable and calm,” Shirkey said. “This is the first step of a multi-step process to prosecute a budget. There’s a lot of negotiations that take place.”
But it's clear that Whitmer's gas tax proposal is not going over well with the public despite her statewide promotional tour, Shirkey said.
“The appetite for the citizens of Michigan to embrace that kind of change in gas tax is just non-existent,” he said, “and I believe over time, through the budget process and beyond, we’ll prove it unnecessary.”
The Senate transportation budget, now heading to the full appropriations committee for additional consideration, moves the process along and “actually moves forward a little bit from the $1.2 billion funding plan we did in 2015,” said subcommittee chairman Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.
“The discussion of future road funding and additional dollars – that’s a separate issue,” Schmidt said, noting any final plan will be negotiated between Whitmer, Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.
“We all have different ideas on how we should fund additional road projects. My job today was to pass a balanced budget and make sure our current revenues are spent properly, and that’s what I did," he said.
Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Cranson said Whitmer’s road funding proposal remains “the best plan” to “get the pavement where it needs to be in the shortest amount of time and give contractors some sense of a sustainable future they can plan for.”
The Michigan House is expected to craft its own budget proposal and is working to develop an alternative road funding plan. Negotiations are expected to continue through summer.
A handful of business, education and agriculture groups that have backed Whitmer’s call for a major road funding bump criticized Tuesday's move by the Senate panel.
“While we are open to other solutions to resolving Michigan’s road condition crisis, we are not sure how the Senate budget advances that critical goal,” Brad Williams of the Detroit Regional Chamber said in a statement.
“The governor has presented a bold plan to address the crisis. We look forward to legislative leadership’s proposal that will generate the revenue necessary to fix the roads and reconcile their plan with the governor’s.”
But Annie Patnaude of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan praised the Senate decision, saying the upper chamber “did the right thing” by stripping the unpopular gas tax proposal from the transportation budget.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Whitmer Threatens Veto Of Senate GOP Transportation Budget
Senate Republican members of the Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee stripped out Governor Gretchen Whitmer's proposed 45-cents per gallon gasoline tax proposal on Tuesday, opting instead to accelerate the final portion of funding from the 2015 roads plan, which promptly received a veto threat from the governor.
In reporting the S-1 substitute of SB 149 along party lines 5-2 with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed it is sticking with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey's plan to develop a long-term road funding plan by early summer to consider separately from the Transportation budget.
"Michigan has the worst roads in the country. Our deteriorating roads are hurting business, tourism and motorists, and the public is demanding action. That's why the governor put forward a real plan that will actually fix the damn roads, improve education and skills training, and clean up our drinking water," Tiffany Brown, spokesperson for Ms. Whitmer, said in a statement. "The governor stands ready to work with the Legislature, but the Senate budget passed today won't do anything to actually fix the roads, and could actually make things worse. If this plan reaches her desk, the governor will veto it."
The Senate Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee's budget contained $5.13 billion for the Department of Transportation.
Rather than take Ms. Whitmer's gas tax proposal, it was jettisoned in favor of providing the final $132 million General Fund dedicated to the 2015 road plan a year early to reach the full $1.2 billion additional funding for roads that was to be fully implemented by 2021.
Subcommittee chair Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) told reporters finding a long-term funding solution to fix the state's crumbling road infrastructure is "a separate conversation" among leadership and the governor at this time.
"My job today was to pass a balanced budget," Mr. Schmidt said, adding that the subcommittee had accomplished that with SB 149.
He said the budget as reported would provide the department and local communities with certainty on what to expect for roads and other infrastructure with the money that is available.
Mr. Schmidt added there are still questions as to how much more is needed to improve the state's roads and of how much of an increase in miles or repairs per construction season could be handled by industry.
Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills), minced no words with reporters as to her displeasure with the changes made to the budget.
"I think they're being chicken," Ms. Bayer said. "They're taking the cowardly way out."
While not committing to a full 45-cents gas tax hike, she said she would be on board with a gas tax increase large enough to actually fix the state's roads.
As SB 149 was reported by the subcommittee, total MDOT funding is $647.5 million gross below the governor's recommendation and $132 million General Fund above the governor's recommendation.
The key change the Senate made in SB 149 was eliminating Ms. Whitmer's proposed Fixing Michigan Roads Program, the gas tax increase. The Senate Fiscal Agency had estimated $834.9 million in new revenue for Fiscal Year 2019-20 going to roads under the plan, with most going toward trunklines.
A $143 million earmark from the U.S. Supreme Court's South Dakota v. Wayfairdecision is also added back into the budget to the Michigan Transportation Fund as outlined under current law. Of these funds $55.9 million would go to state trunklines, $55.9 million to counties and $31.7 million to cities and villages.
Road and bridge revenue adjustments recommended by the governor of more than $205.9 million were concurred with by the subcommittee.
The changes in the Transportation budget vary sharply from the governor's proposed budget.
The governor last month called for phasing in a 45-cents per gallon gasoline tax by October 1, 2020 to raise $2.137 billion more for roads. Under the plan the $325 million General Fund now going to roads would be returned to the General Fund and subtracted from the $2.5 billion the governor is looking to raise for new road revenue.
Through the governor's proposal she has called for taking the new $2.137 billion and creating a new Fixing Michigan Roads fund to split the money between interstates, freeways, highly traveled roads, lesser traveled arterial roads, local bridges, local rural economic corridors and other locations. The primary focus would be the most heavily traveled roads. Existing road funding outside of the proposed new funding would continue to go through the PA 51 road funding formula for the state.
Groups who have voiced some support for the governor's proposal lamented the Senate subcommittee's vote in statements.
"While we are open to other solutions to resolving Michigan's road condition crisis, we are not sure how the Senate budget advances that critical goal," said Brad Williams with Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has come out in strong support of Ms. Whitmer's road funding goals.
Michigan Agri-Business Association President Jim Byrum was also unimpressed.
"We urge the Legislature to work with the administration to develop a plan to fix Michigan's infrastructure and roads, and reject gimmicks, short-term fixes and shell games that will only punt the problem down the road, and cause further harm to Michigan's agricultural industry," Mr. Byrum said.