House OKs ice cream month, adjourns with no road plan

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — State House members remembered the 314th anniversary of Detroit’s founding and marked July as Ice Cream Month in Michigan, but adjourned Wednesday with no agreement on a plan to fix the state’s crumbling roads.

Majority Republicans reported progress but not a consensus on how to reconcile the separate House and Senate proposals that were approved in the past month. They discussed the bills at length Tuesday in a private caucus directed toward a strategy to raise road repair spending by at least $1.2 billion a year.

“We haven’t come together around a specific plan, but I think we will,” said Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant.

An array of bills that make up a road funding plan proposed by Cotter and the House Republican leadership are pending on the House floor, but it wasn’t clear if they will come up for a vote as is or be revised.

“Right now, everyone’s trying to make a case for their favorites,” D’Assandro said regarding Tuesday’s discussions. No formal meeting was planned Wednesday, he said, but lawmakers would hang around Lansing for informal discussions about roads.

Wednesday’s inaction followed an eventful Tuesday when House Democrats proposed a $1.2-billion road funding plan heavily dependent on a $955 million business tax hike and the key element of a House GOP plan was criticized by business and local government groups.

While Republican leaders dismissed the Democrat proposals as a “political sideshow,” the Michigan Municipal League and other groups said they have serious concerns about the House GOP plan’s heavy reliance on redirected state income tax revenue.

It would raise added money for road repairs by earmarking at least $700 million in projected new tax revenue. It also would eliminate a tax credit for low-income working Michiganians costing $117-million a year and a $135 million-a-year business incentive program.

Analysis for the Municipal League from ex-House Fiscal Agency Director Mitch Bean said shifting the large chunk of the state’s $10 billion budget for such general government-funded services as prisons and state universities could have a devastating effect.

By around 2018, a future Legislature could be confronted with layoffs and a half-a-billion dollars in cuts to other state services maintain the road funding earmark, Bean said.

A road funding plan from Senate Republicans would about evenly divide up to $1.5 billion in new road repair funding between at least $700 million in redirected state funds and more than $800 million from a phased-in fuel tax increase that eventually would add 15 cents to Michigan’s 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax and 19 cents to the state’s 15-cents-a-gallon diesel tax.