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Road Funding Deal Could Be Roadkill After Meeting Between Snyder, Legislative
The deal to raise more money for roads, one of Gov. Rick Snyder’s top priorities, looks to
be dead – again – following a closed-door meeting on Wednesday between the governor
and the four leaders of the legislative caucuses.
The only question is: Was the deal essentially dead before the meeting or because of the
Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), Senate Minority Leader
Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and House
Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) periodically meet for what’s known as
Snyder wanted to talk about forward progress on road funding, sources told Inside
Michigan Politics. But there wasn’t much to talk about.
Whitmer and Greimel informed the Republicans that “trust is gone” in road funding
negotiations, well-placed sources said. That’s because of what they see as purely partisan
politics with Snyder signing legislation moving the Court of Claims from its perch in
Democratic Ingham County, and the GOP-led Senate creating a committee to investigate
unions’ responses to Right to Work.
Snyder reiterated what he’s said publicly, that the Court of Claims legislation was a long
talked-about reform, and not politically motivated, three sources said. Greimel and
Whitmer weren’t very receptive of that argument. Eventually, Snyder and Bolger left the
room, sources said.
Quadrant meetings didn’t take place earlier this year, after Whitmer and Greimel felt
betrayed by RTW and the rest of the Republicans’ lame duck agenda in December 2012.
Now the Dems feel double-crossed again and don’t see a path forward on roads.
But the counterpoint raised by some Republicans is that there never was a solution at hand.
For one thing, their base doesn’t take kindly to tax increases, which would likely be part of
any deal, although Bolger and House Republicans have been exploring alternatives.
Sources argued that Democrats were caught flat-footed on the Court of Claims issue and are
trying to make up ground. Now Republicans say it’s the Dems who are using that and RTW
panel as an excuse to blame them for not having a road-funding deal.
“The reason the Dems walk away from table changes constantly based on whatever issue
upset them at the moment,” said Bolger spokesman Ari Adler. “We’ve yet to see any
serious proposals from the Democrats on how to solve this problem.”
Whitmer spokesman Bob McCann countered that his boss has “put more time and energy
into solving the road funding issue than anyone else in the Capitol this year.”
"It's almost comical at this point to hear Republicans talk about their supposed interest in
working across the aisle while at the same time they jam some of the most offensive and
overtly political legislation through the Capitol that our state has ever seen,” McCann said.
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said roads remain a big priority, but declined to talk
about the details of the quadrant meeting.
“The Governor finds these quadrant meetings and other efforts and discussions valuable in
keeping the dialogue going and working to find common ground,” Wurfel said. “It’s all part
of the RPA [Relentless Positive Action] style. But we’re not in the habit, nor are we going to
start, discussing details of these private meetings. I’d just say that investment in our roads
and bridges remains a strong priority that both chambers and both parties recognize needs
At the start of this legislative term, Snyder said one of his top priorities was raising more
than $1 billion annually for Michigan’s roads. Several ideas have been tossed around,
including raising registration fees, increasing the sales tax and hiking the gas tax and
adjusting its formula. Another idea is letting voters decide to raise revenue – not the
Legislature – via a ballot measure.
But the bottom line is that it’s hard to raise serious money without fee and/or tax
increases, which makes the politics bad for Democrats and Republicans alike heading into
the 2014 election.
So the Governor has said that he would settle for a piecemeal approach, although it’s not
ideal. Privately, he’s told leaders, “Just get something done” this year, according to two
Despite the challenges, Whitmer and Richardville, who are both term-limited next year,
have been working together on the issue. It’s been assumed that if anything will happen, it
will start in the upper chamber.
The Senate leaders conducted focus groups this summer and fall about road funding
options. Voters were not enthusiastic about paying more for roads under any scenario,
although they were willing to do so for education, two well-placed sources said.
Richardville remains optimistic about road funding, his spokeswoman, Amber McCann,
“The Majority Leader has a good working relationship with Minority Leader,” McCann said.
“Nothing took place in the quadrant meeting that derails any plans for transportation.”
Greimel spokeswoman Katie Carey said that “it’s the same as it’s been all along. Tim’s
committed to find solutions to road-funding debate. He’s going to sit down with the
quadrant to find that.”
Adler noted he worked at the Michigan Department of Transportation the last time the gas
tax was increased during Gov. John Engler’s tenure. He said people were willing then to
pay more then, but it’s not the same atmosphere now.
“I don’t know that we’re there yet,” he said. “Everyone wants better roads. No one’s ready
to pay more in taxes, though.”