Flint may get $100M despite political squabble

Michael Gerstein, and Jonathan Oosting

Lansing — A political squabble between House and Senate leaders over how to pay for repairs for a collapsed Fraser pipe may spur lawmakers to find another way to funnel $100 million to Flint for lead pipe replacement.

Flint’s federal money is tied to the fate of a bill to pay for repairs to a collapsed Macomb County interceptor.

But because House Speaker Tom Leonard and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof – both Republicans – can’t yet agree on the best way to fund the Fraser fix, the Legislature may instead pass separate legislation to get Flint its promised $100 million in federal funds.

A spokesman for Leonard, Gideon D’Assandro, said Wednesday the speaker has assured state representatives from and near Flint that the city will receive its promised federal money regardless of the form that Macomb County’s pipe repair aid takes.

That was confirmed by Rep. Sheldon Neeley and Sen. Jim Ananich, both Flint Democrats.

“Yes, he gave us his word that he would do so,” Neeley said. “We take him at his word.”

The Fraser bill originally served as a funding pass-through for Flint’s money, which can’t reach the city until both chambers agree on the supplemental aid plan for Macomb County or pass separate legislation for Flint.

Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, and Ananich have sponsored separate bills in the House and Senate to pass the money to Flint.

The shift may come as Gov. Rick Snyder prompts lawmakers to make sure Flint gets the federal money despite legislative gridlock over the Macomb County issue.

“I’m just encouraging them to work out the differences they have,” Snyder said Wednesday. “I’m supportive of some form of assistance to help with that situation in the three-to-five-million-dollar range. In particular, I’d like to see the Flint assistance move forward, and hopefully they can work something out on the Macomb issue.”

This year, the House passed a plan to give Macomb County a $3 million grant, while the Senate passed a separate measure to instead offer it a $5 million loan – something that Leonard and Meekhof are still split on.

The alternative plan signals the latest efforts to work around a strained relationship between the House and Senate, which have been at odds on major Republican legislative plans despite the party’s control of both chambers.

Meekhof said Wednesday that he’s meeting again with Leonard, Snyder and others on Thursday to continue discussions on the Fraser disagreement.

Meekhof said the Senate may decide a course of action next week. He said he’s still pushing for the $5 million loan.

“That would be my preference, but we’ll see how things go,” Meekhof said Tuesday.