Despite concerns that not enough money is being allocated for Michigan's pothole-pocked roads, the Michigan Legislature voted Thursday to pump $175 million more into road improvements, sending the bill to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.
The vote was unanimous in both the House and the Senate.
In the Senate, Democrats offered amendments calling for $275 million to be shifted from the state's rainy day fund to road repairs and creating a $5-million fund that drivers could access for repairs to cars damaged by potholes. Neither amendment passed.
"The current proposal is a day late and a dollar short ... of what is needed to fix our roads," said Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing. "It is the ultimate insult to the citizens of Michigan to ask them to pay higher taxes and registration fees and not solve this problem. We can’t afford to wait until 2021 to fully fund this problem."
Sen. David Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, noted that the $175 million will be added to $600 million already allocated this year for road repairs. And in the next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, $750 million will be set aside for roads and bridges.
"Just over two years ago, we passed a bold and comprehensive road plan," he said. "It’s going to take some time to get them back in good conditions."
But Sen. Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, said the way Michigan funds roads — under Public Act 5, which allocates equal amounts to counties and communities across the state without consideration of how much the roads are used — is "institutionalized theft" that has got to change.
"Come and drive on our roads in Macomb County. The majority of them are destroyed," he said. "So much of our tax dollars are being taken by other parts of the state by greedy, grubbing people while my constituents are paying the bills and are driving on roads that are destroyed. ... It has to stop."
The votes came a day after Snyder signed tax cut legislation that will save a single taxpayer a little more than $25 a year and a family of four a little more than $100 a year and cost the state Treasury about $180 million a year, once fully implemented. Some drivers expressed dismay, saying they would gladly give up the tax cut and have that money put into roads.
But Snyder, who is expected to sign the road funding bill, said Wednesday that the state can provide relief on both taxes and roads. He noted the state has significantly ramped up road spending and will have an extra $1.2 billion a year to spend, once a 2015 road funding deal is fully implemented in 2021.
Under the plan, $38.1 million would be distributed to cities and villages across the state, $68.4 million would be allocated to the state’s 83 counties and another $68.4 million would be used for state trunkline preservation and enhancement projects that would help improve mobility for senior citizens and disabled people, as well as projects that will bolster technology in the state’s roads, including coordination and testing with autonomous vehicles.
The state portion will be divided between $53 million for state road preservation, which could include patching potholes or doing asphalt overlays but not total reconstruction of roads, and the rest toward the enhancement projects.
With the distribution, Macomb County would get $4.4 million, Oakland County would receive $7 million and Wayne County would get $6.4 million.
The appropriations bill also include $1 million for the attorney general's investigation into the sex scandal at Michigan State University; $4 million in interest from a federal funding grant for new voting machines and $2.4 million for the Michigan State Police for emergency response to flooding, Narcan spray to help treat drug overdoses and replenishing a fund to provide benefits to the surviving families of officers killed in the line of duty.
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