Gov. Snyder: Progress on roads deal but no agreement

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News
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Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder huddled with top legislative leaders to discuss a potential plan for repairing Michigan’s deteriorating roads Tuesday but emerged with no agreement and was noncommittal about what was discussed.

Snyder described the meeting as “a good productive discussion.” He said he’s “not in a position ... yet” to provide any details about proposals hashed out with four top legislative Republicans and Democrats in the hour-long meeting.

The governor added, however, that he feels confident enough about progress toward a plan to boost road funding annually by $1.2 billion to go head on Wednesday on a week-long trade and economic development trip to Japan and Germany. He’ll return mid-week next week, spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

Snyder and lawmakers are trying to find a middle ground between separate House and Senate roads funding plans. The House plan relies heavily on annual state revenue increases and budget adjustments to come up with the money. The Senate plan blends tax increases and money that would be earmarked from the general fund, the main state checkbook over which lawmakers have control.

The Detroit News reported Tuesday that a potential new compromise plan would raise added road repair money with a 9-cent increase in the state’s 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, an average vehicle registration fee increase of about $50 per vehicle per year and $350 million to $400 million in budget adjustments or anticipated state revenue increases.

The governor and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, both denied it is the plan that is on the table right now.

Snyder described it as “not very accurate.” But he agreed the roads compromise will have to include a combination of new tax revenue and budget adjustments or general fund revenue increases.

“It’s just a question of what degree,” Snyder said. “I appreciate that the lieutenant governor pointed out that we need to be fiscally responsible.”

Snyder has been reluctant to agree with the use of a general fund earmark as part of ongoing road funding solution because state revenues can fluctuate and the money is used to for many other government programs. Roads have their own revenue stream — what’s collected each year from state fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees.

The governor also said he hadn’t expected to seal a road funding deal on Tuesday. He and legislative leaders said they plan to hold another roads discussion soon, but they haven’t yet set the date.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will negotiate on behalf of the governor’s office, Snyder said. Calley traveled the state last year and early this year promoting a sales tax increase-based road funding plan voters rejected in a May 5 election.

Meekhof and House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount. Pleasant, wouldn’t provide specifics or even vague details, of what was discussed Tuesday. Meekhof said several concepts were hashed out, but each seemed to cause “heartburn” for one or another of the participants.

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