LANSING (AP) – The Rick Snyder v. Senate Republicans showdown over Medicaid expansion is overshadowing the fact that other big bills went unresolved before lawmakers adjourned for at least two months.
At the top of the list is the years-long debate over how to raise taxes and fees to bring more roads and bridges up to par. But other bills in doubt include one to cap unlimited medical benefits for catastrophically injured motorists along with a measure letting Michigan run more poor-performing schools.
The Medicaid debate could yet be resolved in July or August if senators decide to return for a vote. Here are five other key issues that could be debated later in 2013 before an election year that could doom prospects of enacting contentious legislation.
Issue: With people driving less and buying more fuel-efficient cars, the state’s flat per-gallon fuel taxes aren’t generating enough revenue to keep pace with construction costs. Snyder says without extra funding for routine maintenance, highways will deteriorate so much that it’ll be much more costly to fix them later.
Solution: State transportation officials are asking for an extra 35 cents a day from every vehicle in Michigan, or about $128 a year in taxes, license plate fees or both.
Outlook: Dim. Politicians consider raising gasoline taxes to be a third rail for consumers. The recent price spike at the pump didn’t help. Increasing the 6 percent sales tax would require two-thirds backing in the Republican-controlled Legislature just to make the ballot, and the ability of GOP and Democratic leaders to strike a deal – perhaps with more money for schools, too – is a major question mark.
Issue: Michigan’s the only state that requires unlimited medical benefits for catastrophic injuries and rehabilitation, which costs motorists $175 per car per year and rises to $186 starting Monday. Critics, including insurers, say it’s an unsustainable system.
Solution: Going forward, everyone would buy $1 million in coverage under a Snyder-backed plan. Current accident survivors would keep getting unlimited benefits. Newly injured exceeding $1 million in care could be covered by government-subsidized insurance or their private plan. Premiums would drop at least $125 per vehicle in year one.
Outlook: Slim unless bill changes. While backers say 99.5 percent of people injured in car crashes need under $1 million of care, those needing long-term attendant care have powerful stories. Talk of capping benefits is a non-starter even for some majority Republicans, but it’s possible lawmakers could agree to stop medical providers from charging insurance companies more for auto-related injuries. A hurdle is the medical lobby.
Issue: In 2010, the state education board adopted Common Core State Standards, academic benchmarks in reading and math adopted by 45 states. Republicans recently blocked funding for the initiative – led by governors – in the budget year starting Oct. 1 after conservatives raised concerns it’s an intrusion into local schools.
Solution: Before the state can spend money again on Common Core, the Legislature must affirmatively authorize moving ahead.
Outlook: Decent. A special House subcommittee plans to begin meeting in July to discuss the issue. House Speaker Jase Bolger wants to vote as early as September. Snyder and the business and education communities support the new standards, and teachers already have started aligning with them.
STATE SCHOOL DISTRICT
Issue: A law signed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm created a school reform office to supervise the lowest-performing 5 percent of public schools. Her successor, Snyder, created the Education Achievement Authority, a state-run school district in place in 15 Detroit schools included in that bottom 5 percent. Snyder argues the EAA is working and wants to expand it elsewhere.
Solution: A bill narrowly approved by the House in March would codify the district into law and allow the EAA to take the reins at up to 50 schools.
Outlook: Unclear. The Senate is skeptical with House changes that would let intermediate school districts step in to run schools instead. Democrats argue the legislation would usurp local control by implementing an experimental and unproven educational model that’s been in place for one school year.
Issue: If Detroit falls into bankruptcy or depending on what emerges from the emergency manager’s turnaround plan, legislators could be asked to send aid to the beleaguered city.
Solution: Unclear at this point. The situation in Michigan’s largest city is fluid, and the spokesman for emergency manager Kevyn Orr says there’s no plan to ask for state aid.
Outlook: Mixed. The state has spent millions of dollars to pay emergency managers and cover the costs of consultants and experts looking at the books of deficit-ridden cities and school districts. Orr says it’s more likely he could ask lawmakers for legal or operational fixes but not a financial package.
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