- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan legislative committee approved a House Republican-sponsored package Wednesday that would shift hundreds of millions from the state’s general fund and make other changes aimed at eventually generating more than $1 billion a year for repairing the state’s roads.

The Republican-majority House Roads and Economic Development Committee approved the bills along party lines.

Along with many other changes, the 12-bill package would earmark more than $442 million from the general fund for roads in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.That number would increase to more than $792 million in the 2019 fiscal year. Funds currently put toward economic development programs such as film incentives would also be shifted toward roads. A state tax credit for low-income, working families would be eliminated to free up an estimated $117 million a year.

The plan would raise some new revenue by increasing the diesel tax from 15 cents to 19 cents to match the gas tax, then indexing both to inflation. Registration fees would be raised by $30 on hybrid vehicles and by $100 on electric vehicles.

Republican House Speaker Kevin Cotter put the plan forward a week after voters defeated a ballot proposal on May 5 that would have raised the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent to put more money toward roads. Cotter said he is open to negotiating with the Senate and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder on what a final funding plan would look like. Snyder and Senate Republican Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof have voiced support for an approach that would rely more on generating new revenue rather than dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars from the general fund and making other cuts.

Changes made to the House package in committee included addressing concerns that the popular tourism program Pure Michigan could be cut.

Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO Steve Arwood warned the committee last month that taking $60 million generated through tribal gambling compacts and $75 million from the 21st Century Jobs Fund could mean the Pure Michigan advertising budget would have to be scaled back. New language notes that it is the intent of the Legislature that Pure Michigan will be not be funded at a lower amount than it was in the current fiscal year.

Cotter said he hopes to see the package receive a vote in the full House as early as next week, but Snyder has talked about reaching a compromise sometime in the fall.

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