With the new state fiscal year only a month away, the lack of a budget deal is consuming discussions in Lansing. The Governor’s budget closely intertwines the state budget with the need for an additional $2.5 billion investment our road networks. Legislative leaders have spent the summer developing their own proposals for addressing these two issues and those debates are now coming to a head as the number of days left to adopt a budget without a shutdown dwindle.
Highlighting the increased attention that the road funding debate is garnering, a group of business and industry leaders recently held a press conference calling for action in support of increasing road funding. The participants reiterated the importance that our transportation infrastructure has on residents and businesses throughout the state. The press conference also provided an opportunity to release statewide road condition maps that were developed by Michigan’s Transportation Asset Management Council. This mapping shows all road conditions throughout the state (zoom map to specific communities) and then the maps are broken out by legislative district for the state’s network, offering an analysis of the percentage of state roads in poor condition within those districts.
Legislative leaders reportedly presented the Governor with a series of ideas to raise new revenue or shift revenue from other sources to fund road repairs. Many of the ideas that were mentioned have been reported on previously, including shifting the sales tax off of gas purchases and bonding/refinancing the unfunded school pension liability, but a couple of new concepts have recently come to light that include a tax on freight haulers and a tax on transportation services like Uber. The potential value of these legislative ideas is likely somewhere in the $1.5-1.8 billion range. The Governor continues to call on the legislature for a full plan and has expressed her objections to any financing changes to the teacher pension system. This war of words recently heated up with legislative leaders stating they would send the Governor a budget without a roads plan, tackling the road debate separately. This issue will be at the center of legislative work over the course of the coming month and the League continues to push for additional local revenue options and more favorable distributions to local road agencies. Look for more updates in the coming weeks.
Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and [email protected].