- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration on Tuesday backed off the assertion that the popular Pure Michigan tourism program would have to be cut as a result of House Republicans’ proposed plan to fund road repairs.

The administration made it clear that it still opposes the shifting of economic development funds toward transportation while agreeing that Pure Michigan would not necessarily be entirely defunded.

Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO Steve Arwood testified to the House Roads and Economic Development Committee in opposition to bills that would fund road repairs in part by using $135 million in economic development funds currently funneled through the department. Majority House Republicans specifically proposed taking $60 million generated through tribal gaming compacts and $75 million from the 21st Century Jobs Fund.

Some of the 21st Century Jobs Fund money goes to the Pure Michigan advertising budget, which is supported across the political spectrum for its success in attracting tourism to the state.

Arwood said taking that money will likely mean other economic development programs are cut entirely to find other funds for Pure Michigan.

“The impact will be all across the state as we look at what we have to quit doing,” Arwood said.

He also hinted that Pure Michigan might not be funded at the levels agreed to in recent budget talks as the Economic Development Corp. looks for ways to trim its budget if the bills are approved.

Rep. Pete Pettalia, a Republican from Presque Isle, countered that he supports Pure Michigan fully, and he thinks the economic development agency can find ways to reprioritize its budget without cutting the program.

“You have to come to the table and help us get over this,” Pettalia said. “It’s not a matter of attacking your budget.”

But Arwood signaled the administration is ready to stand its ground against the cuts.

“I don’t lose easily. I am very competitive,” Arwood said.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, said House Republicans expect the economic development agency “to have the right priorities” and make sure Pure Michigan is continued.

“With hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development incentives in their budget, we’re sure the MEDC can find several areas to cut back that are better than the popular and successful Pure Michigan program,” D’Assandro said.

House Republican leaders have said they expect to pass the road funding package along with the budget for the coming fiscal year by the end of June.

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