Senate Stalls on Road Funding

The Michigan state senate worked until just after 1 a.m. Thursday morning trying to pass a package of transportation bills to fix the roads, only to finally adjourn in a stalemate.

"We had some good ideas come up," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe). "We fixed part of the structural problem that's out there, I think we've put 18, 19 votes up, we need one or two more. I think we'll be able to get that done tomorrow. It's a step in the right direction."

Proposed legislation would implement a 7 percent wholesale tax -- roughly 19 cents a gallon -- which would be raised to 15 percent by 2019 -- roughly 41 cents a gallon.

Several bills that were part of the package passed, including legislation that would freeze vehicle registration fees, eliminating some of the discounts drivers receive.

The senate also passed a pair of bills to allow for a homestead tax credit if the gas tax is raised. Democrats pushed for the bills as a way to offset higher fees for the state's poorest people.

But the headline of the night would be political stalemate. Republicans, even with the help of Gov. Rick Snyder, who was reportedly talking to senators one-on-one to try to sway their decisions, were unable to muster enough votes to get the cornerstone piece of legislation passed.

As Wednesday night turned to Thursday morning, they tried a different approach: a scaled-back bill that would provide almost $40 million to fix the roads -- promoted as "budget neutral."

"It's ridiculous to say that and to pretend that that's some sort of solution when it's the Governor, it's the majority who have said we've got to address this and have a full fix," said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing). "This doesn't do anything toward that.
I think what we have seen a failure of leadership. I think it's a failure of leadership by the legislative leadership, but also by the governor."

Among other failures: an amendment asking voters to increase the sales tax by one percent instead of raising the fuel tax. It fell 12 votes short.

Bills to raise money by imposing higher fees on heavy trucks and eliminating discounts on registration fees also failed.

The senate will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thurs. Any bill passed must be reconciled in the house before moving to the governor's desk for his signature.

The legislature breaks for the summer Friday.


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