- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Lawmakers voted Wednesday to spend $215 million more on routine road maintenance and longer-lasting repairs in the middle of the budget year, pointing to Michigan’s harsh winter while still hoping for a permanent yet elusive transportation funding fix.

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to quickly sign the spending bill. It accounts for the loss of some savings after Senate Republicans delayed the expansion of Medicaid and sets aside money to resolve a health insurance claims tax shortfall if no other solution is found by October.

More than half of the road funding is to speed up shovel-ready road projects. 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.

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.



Senate Bill 608: https://1.usa.gov/1cnp62Q


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