By Kathleen Gray
The House, Senate and Gov. Rick Snyder have agreed to inject $400 million into the states's crumbling roads in the 2015-16 budget year.
While specifics on the target numbers for the budget aren't available yet for the $54-billion fiscal plan that will begin Oct 1, a few things have become clear, including the $400 million in general fund dollars for roads.
In the wake of the overwhelming defeat of a ballot proposal to, in part, to fix Michigan's crumbling roads -- it failed by an 80% to 20% margin -- legislators recognize that something needed to be done quickly to inject some cash into making roads and bridges safer.
"We've had to reprioritize. We can't be all things to all people. There's a lot of need out there," said Sen. David Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. "We've had to make some tough decisions to reinvest in our infrastructure. You'll see reductions throughout state government."
State Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said, "We all heard what voters had to say on May 5 and those dollars should be dedicated to roads and they will be dedicated to roads.".
One of the areas that will receive a cut is the $50 million originally budgeted for incentives to the film industry. That number is expected to be cut to $25 million in the target agreement signed today.
Although other details weren't released, a press release from the Governor and Republican leadership in the House and Senate noted, "The final budget, expected to be signed in June, will increase investment in other key priorities such as education, public safety, health and human services, as well as saving for the future in the state's rainy day fund.
At a revenue estimating conference on Friday, the Legislature found out that $217 million in additional revenues were expected to flow into the state's coffers. Lawmakers said it would be appropriate to move that money into road repairs. The House version of the budget had allocated $160 million for roads.
Snyder said Tuesday that he hopes a more comprehensive, long-term solution can be found to fund the $1.2-billion annual projected need to get Michigan's roads into good shape.
"I hope over the summertime we can get some good conclusion and get something done," he said. "One of the things we've done in prior years, can we look hard in the general fund dollars to put some of those aside for transportation. But until we get a long-term solution, let's be thoughtful on that. That will be part of the discussion."
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