LANSING (WWJ/AP) – It’s almost a done deal. Michigan lawmakers have agreed to set aside $215 million more for road maintenance this year, partly to help local governments grappling with winter costs and potholes.
The Senate voted 30-5 to approve a spending bill Wednesday while another storm was hitting the state. The House then voted 106-2 to send it to Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign the legislation.
More than half the money will go to shovel-ready road projects, which will include the filling of potholes, WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reported.
It was not immediately clear, however, just how much of that money would go to southeast Michigan.
Another $100 million will make sure road agencies struggling with snow plowing and salt costs still have money in the summer for pothole repairs, mowing and trash cleanup.
“This winter’s been so cold with so much snow that local communities have a real deficit,” said House Appropriations Chairman Joe Haveman, R-Holland. “If we can help them in any way get from under that, fix the potholes … that’s the goal.”
He said the $115 million for yet-to-be-determined road projects is just a “Band-Aid” and “now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start working on a long-term solution.” Snyder says at least $1.3 billion in new revenue a year is needed for deteriorating roads, yet the Republican governor’s proposed gasoline tax and vehicle fee increases have stalled for more than two years.
Though odds of a broader agreement before the November election are slim, House Speaker Jase Bolger said talks continue.
“I don’t agree with the premise that you have to raise a billion dollars more in revenue,” said Bolger, R-Marshall. “We have the opportunity – as you look at the surplus, as you look at the ongoing projections that we’re growing in our revenue from existing taxes – that we look to dedicate those resources to roads.”
Democrats expressed concern that the share of funding for transportation projects could be tilted toward majority Republicans’ districts. Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, said it should be “more evenly distributed on both sides of the aisle.”
In the end, though, the mid-fiscal year legislation won broad bipartisan support, 30-5 in the Senate and 106-2 in the House.
“There’s also $13 million for mental health services that were going to be shut off on March 17th,” Skubick said. “But there is no money for the regional transit authority in Detroit. The officials there wanted two million bucks … they got a goose egg.”
Other highlights of the bill include:
– $73 million in adjustments to account for lost savings due to a three-month delay in expanding health insurance to more low-income adults. The state health agency otherwise could have run into funding problems this week, especially with mental health services.
– An agreement that if a shortfall in the Medicaid budget caused by a health claims tax bringing in less than anticipated is not resolved this fiscal year, the hole will be temporarily filled with $115 million in a reserve fund.
– $7.2 million for improvements at National Guard armories across the state.
– $7 million to help low-income residents facing a propane shortage brought on in part by heavy demand during abnormally cold weather.
– Nearly $3.4 million to restore half of the state funding for the Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit, which delivers more at-risk babies than any other hospital in Michigan.
– $170,000 for Snyder’s new Office for New Americans, which he created last month to attract immigrants to the state.
This latest comes as Gov. Snyder and lawmakers have been debating what to do with the state’s $483 million budget surplus.
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