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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of June 25, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

A lot has been happening in the Legislature on a variety of issues.  A road funding plan that dedicates future revenue growth to funding for roads, with very little new funding from tax or fee increases has passed the House and awaits action by the Senate.  A new law that allows adoption agencies to refuse to provide services based on their religious views about the people who seek to adopt children has been signed into law and a variety of other legislative proposals, many controversial may be taken up this summer.

A Republican member of the House Transportation Committee has introduced a plan that would boost funding for Michigan's roads by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.  The bills, HB 4737, 4738 and 4739, according to Rep. Mike McCready, R-Birmingham, would pay off debt and free up funds to be used for improving the state's infrastructure.  McCready's bills would increase the diesel tax, which is at 15 cents per gallon and gas tax, which is at 19 cents per gallon, to a minimum of 23 cents per gallon as of October 1, 2015.  The bills would connect the fuel taxes to the wholesale price, meaning that the rate could increase with the wholesale price.  But the plan would also cap the cents-per-gallon rate at 30 cents per gallon.  In addition, McCready's plan would increase vehicle registration fees.

The idea is to create enough revenue to pay off the estimated $1.9 billion in bond debt the State Trunkline Fund has accumulated. By paying of the debt through the registration increases, McCready said, his plan would free up about $230 million per year for roadwork.  The bills were referred to the standing House Transportation Committee and NOT the House Roads Committee where the Speaker Kevin Cotter, R- Mt. Pleasant road bills were referred.  Those bill now await action by the Senate. The Speaker Cotter plan generates $1 billion which relies heavily on shifting existing state resources to transportation.

The Senate Republican caucus continues to meet to develop their road funding plan.  They plan to  meet again on June 30.  Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, hopes that road talks will coalesce into a viable road plan soon.  The Senate plans to work weekly until a road plan is devised.  The House plans to be back in session on July 14 to receive an update on the Senate plan and to address issues non related to transportation issues.

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