LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Talks over raising taxes to repair deteriorating Michigan roads have come down to the last day of voting in the Legislature this year.
Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders resumed negotiations Thursday morning in hopes of brokering a minimum $1.2 billion deal.READ MORE: 16-Year-Old Red Panda Euthanized At Detroit Zoo Due To Decline In Health
House Speaker Jase Bolger and Minority Leader Tim Greimel say they are “very close” to an agreement, and key players will meet again later in the morning.
A transportation funding fix may be done through legislation only, a ballot measure proposed for a statewide vote or a combination of both.
Lawmakers are planning for a marathon session that may stretch into Friday.
Snyder says talks are centered on a number of principles. They include generating an extra $1.2 billion a year for transportation funding, not harming K-12 and municipal budgets, making sure taxes at the pump go to roads, keeping fuel taxes in check and preventing a tax hike from disproportionately affecting lower- and middle-class residents.
He said Wednesday night that legislators were “heading in a direction where it may be possible to check those boxes.”
The Senate and House approved vastly different plans to fix the roads after the November election.
The Senate plan would more than double the 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline and 15-cents-per-gallon diesel taxes over four years. The rival House proposal would eliminate the 6 percent sales tax on fuel within six years and increase per-gallon gas and diesel taxes by the same amount, averting a tax increase by moving money for schools and local governments to road and bridge construction.
Another bill pending in a House-Senate conference committee could boost license plate taxes.READ MORE: Oakland County Prosecutor Criticizes Oxford High School Over Run-Up To Deadly Shooting
Asked if she felt better about negotiations, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer said: “This is an enormous problem that deserves a thoughtful solution. When you’re running up against the clock, it makes it much more difficult to make sure that you come up with something comprehensive. I’m still at the table and I’m still dedicated to trying to make this work.”
Snyder and legislative leaders say at least $1.2 billion more a year is needed to bring highways, streets and bridges up to par. Vehicle registration fees and taxes at the pump now account for $2 billion in annual transportation infrastructure funding. But other than agreeing on the amount needed and that the state’s flat per-gallon fuel taxes should be based on wholesale prices instead, they have sharp differences.
Bolger does not think the entire $1.2 billion should come from new taxes and wants to make sure all taxes at the pump pay for transportation projects, which is not currently the case. The governor, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Democrats worry about hurting school and local budgets as a result.
Richardville hinted that the Legislature could put a sales tax-related road funding plan on the statewide ballot, without a lawmaker-enacted plan to fall back on if voters reject the measure.
“We’d said we’d get it done before we left and that’s going to happen — I still believe that,” he said.
Whitmer said she had asked House leaders to vote on the Senate-passed fuel tax increase. They could request that the bill be returned from a conference committee for an up-or-down vote, she said, noting that Snyder and business, labor and education groups all back the bipartisan Senate plan.
“We took a tough vote. We deserve to have a vote in the House on that plan because it’s a good plan,” Whitmer said.
Bolger spokesman Ari Adler said House Republicans cannot support the Senate plan.
“We’re getting closer every time we meet,” Bolger said.MORE NEWS: Supply Chain Issues: How Are Global Shortages Affecting Local Customers?
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