LANSING — Detroit-area communities will receive tens of millions of dollars in extra road funding under a 2019 budget approved Tuesday, which sweetened existing road funding by another $300 million.
Lawmakers used surplus funds to approve extra help for the state's crumbling roads and bridges. The 56.8-billion budget is now on its way to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign it.
The $300 million is on top of about $1 billion already allocated to state freeways and close to $1.4 billion being distributed to local road agencies for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The state is beefing up road funding under a 2015 deal that hiked fuel taxes and registration fees and calls for gradually stepped-up road funding from the state's general fund.
About $117 million of the extra money is to be spent on state highways, with another $117 million going to county road commissions, and just over $65 million going to cities and villages.
Local officials said Tuesday they appreciate any extra money to fix roads but said Michigan still needs a long-term solution, not one-time bandages. Most said it is too early to identify specific projects on which the extra money will be spent.
The extra $7.7 million Macomb County receives would rebuild about 4.5 lane miles of road, County Executive Mark Hackel told the Free Press. "I've got 803 lane miles to fix right now," Hackel said.
According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, other local shares of the extra $300 million in road funding include:
- $11 million for Wayne County
- $12.1 million for Oakland County
- $10 million for the City of Detroit.
- $1.2 million for Dearborn and $623,000 for Dearborn Heights
- $492,000 for the five Grosse Pointe communities
- $1.2 million for Livonia
- $996,000 for Farmington Hills
- $219,000 for Ferndale
- $72,366 for Huntington Woods
- $56,932 for Bloomfield Hills
- $844,000 for Rochester Hills
- $715,000 for Royal Oak
- $967,000 for Troy
- $1.6 million for the City of Lansing
Hackel said the formula for distributing road funds to local communities shortchanges southeast Michigan and only once road funding is fair and transparent will voters support further tax or fee increases for road repairs.
The $7.7 million add-on his county will receive, "in the big scheme of things, it's insignificant, but obviously, I'm not going to complain about getting some money to do some things," he said.
The extra $300 million the Legislature approved Tuesday is on top of a $175 million supplemental appropriation lawmakers recently approved for the 2018 budget.
Denise Donohue, director of the County Road Association of Michigan, said studies show the need for extra road funding is about $2.5 billion a year — or roughly double what lawmakers approved in 2015. Still, there is a sense of enthusiasm and momentum that road funding is moving in the right direction, she said.
"It's not enough," but "all of our members are appreciative of any additional money that comes from the Legislature," Donohue said.
In Oakland County, road commission spokesman Craig Bryson said the county will try to maximize the impact of the extra $12.1 million on motorists' driving experience by focusing on resurfacing — rather than rebuilding —large stretches of road, plus spot refurbishments and concrete replacement projects.
"We do greatly appreciate the Legislature continuing to make roads a priority," Bryson said. However, "we've got a $2-billion need here in Oakland County."
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said the extra road money is “a step in the right direction, but we still lack a long-term strategy to adequately fund our roads."
The Senate passed the main budget bill — which includes all non-education spending — shortly before noon Tuesday, in a 33-2 vote with bipartisan support. Two Democratic senators, Hoon-Yung Hopgood of Taylor and Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor, voted no without taking the floor to give reasons for their votes. About two hours later, the House passed that nearly $40-billion budget bill in a 66-43 vote.
The $16.8-billion education-related budgets passed by narrower margins, 25-11 in the Senate and 63-46 in the House.
Other features of the state budget include:
- In the Department of Health and Human Services, a prohibition on providing family planning and pregnancy prevention funds to entities that also perform abortions if there is another provider in the same county that does not perform abortions. The change would impact funding for Planned Parenthood of Michigan by an unknown amount.
- For K-12 school, $312 million in increased foundation allowances, which will be hiked by $115 to $230 per pupil under a formula through which poorer districts get twice the increase richer ones do. The minimum foundation allowance would increase 3%, from $7,631 ti $7,861, while the maximum foundation allowance would increase 1.4%, from $8,289 to $8,404. The increases are the highest in 15 years.
- For universities, an increase in operations funding by 2%, or $28.6 million, with the increase coming from the School Aid Fund. Increases for individual universities are expected to range from 1.5% to 3.1%, with penalties for those who exceed tuition restraints or fail to comply with measures to address campus sexual assault. The tuition restraint is 3.8% or $490, whichever is greater.
- For community colleges, an operating grant increase of $3.2 million, or 1%, funded from the School Aid Fund.
- For the Attorney General's Office, $2.6 million for the office to continue its investigation and criminal prosecutions related to the Flint drinking water crisis.
- For the Corrections Department, an anticipated $19.2 million in savings from closing a prison — yet to be identified — and $13.2 million to return state employees to prison kitchens after a failed privatization experiment that began in 2013.
- For the Michigan State Police, $20.3 million in salaries, benefits, equipment and other support costs related to 150 new troopers expected to graduate from a summer 2018 trooper school, plus $8.9 million in training, administrative and salaries and benefits costs related to a 2019 trooper school expected to graduate 75 new troopers.
Sen. Dave Hildebrand, R-Lowell, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the budget includes "a lot of great investments, but we're also being very responsible." He said total spending in the non-education portion of the state budget will be less in 2019 than it was in 2018.
Democrats said the amount of road money is still insufficient, residents of Flint are still living in a city with water advisories and that people who were falsely accused of unemployment insurance fraud by an automated state system that ran amok still haven’t been made whole.
Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon, said one of his constituents has been financially decimated as a result of the Unemployment Insurance Agency scandal.
“The state came in and wrongfully accused him of fraud,” he said. “He’s been proven to be innocent of these charges, but nowhere in this budget is anything that makes up for that and helps that citizen to become whole again."
The school aid budget also came in for harsh criticism from Democrats in the House, who were incensed by language included late in the budget process that would force a struggling school to close or fire teachers if they don’t meet certain benchmarks over 18 or 36 months.
“This is a policy issue that this is coming to us in an appropriations bill. This is a disgraceful solution. It does nothing to move us closer to becoming a top 10 ten state in education, said state Rep. Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills.
“When we need to be attracting more teachers to schools, we tell them it’s their fault. We need to be supporting our teachers and not firing them.”
There was no immediate word on when Snyder, who has line-item veto power on budget bills, would sign the budget bills and announce any vetoes.
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.
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