The state Senate has approved its $1.5 billion plan to boost road funding.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley cast two tie-breaking votes on bills to gradually raise Michigan’s gas tax by 15 cents over three years. Calley says those votes were meant to move the process along toward reaching a final compromise on road funding.
“I think this was a positive step toward actually getting our roads fixed,” Calley told reporters shortly after casting the rare tie-breaking votes.
“We’ve heard loud and clear for years now that our people just want our roads fixed. And this advances that debate and that discussion. And I’m happy to continue to advocate for the type of road system and bridge system that our people deserve.”
The plan also shifts about $700 million a year from the state’s General Fund to roads and includes a possible income tax rollback.
The Senate did not vote to eliminate Michigan’s portion of a tax credit for the working poor – which had previously been part of Republican plans.
Several Senate Republicans broke with their leadership to vote against raising the state’s gas tax.
“Tax increases simply push the prioritization discussions from the halls of Lansing to the kitchen tables of our citizens,” said state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton).
Almost every Democrat in the Senate voted against the entirety of the bill package. They say the $700 million in cuts to the General Fund is guaranteed to hurt working families.
The only Democrat to vote in favor of some significant portions of the package was Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit). Smith currently faces felony assault and firearms charges and his political future is uncertain.
One major change to the proposal made Wednesday is that it would direct some gas tax revenue increases to a “lock box.” After the completion of a public study on road construction practices, lawmakers could vote to release those funds to pay for road projects if they feel road agencies were building better and longer-lasting roads.
The state House and Senate must now iron out big differences between their respective proposals.