LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The debate over the roads in Lansing has taken a turn — one that is generating some animosity.
Just last week, Gov. Rick Snyder said talks were at an impasse and there would be no more meetings of the leaders until progress was made. Tuesday, Snyder said the sides needed time to “cool off” before coming back to the table. But that “cooling off” may not be working out so well.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said it’s time to take some action on roads, and he put the ball in the lower chamber’s court to make it happen. He said the package of bills to get things moving is already available to the state House.
“I’m calling on the House, who has the conference committee in their control, to put those bills in conference committee — the drafts are already done — and vote them out of conference committee and put them up on the House board for a vote,” the Republican from West Olive said.
Meekof says the House should put up the bills and “find the votes.”
The most recent plan on which Meekhof wants action would generate $1.2 billion for roads — $400 million from existing revenues, $400 million from a combination of higher vehicle registration fees and fees on heavy trucks and electric vehicles, and another $400 million through an increase in the gas tax. That gas tax increase would be roughly 6 1/2 cents per gallon, then boosted with inflation over time.
But House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel says that plan is a nonstarter because of a corresponding rollback in income taxes if revenues exceed the rate of inflation.
“His (Meekhof’s) insistence on cutting the income tax rate while simultaneously taking another $400 million from the general fund would have devastating consequences for education and public safety,” Greimel said.
The Republican speaker of the House, Kevin Cotter, on Tuesday indicated Meekhof’s demand for a vote isn’t possible.
“Senate Majority Leader Meekhof abruptly left the last quadrant meeting early because Rep. Greimel changed his mind on an income tax cut, so he should know there is no deal,” a spokesperson for Cotter said in part in a statement.
Greimel said he wants to keep talking. But after listening to some of the leaders, it is not clear that the atmosphere is conducive to a deal.
“I want to continue talking with the other quadrant leaders. I made that very clear last week when Arlan rushed out of the room like a child when he couldn’t get his way,” Greimel said.
Meekhof said the House should just vote: “I believe they should put it up. Just put it up.”
But there is no indication the House will do so.