GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A long-awaited plan to funnel $1.2 billion more annually into fixing and keeping up Michigan’s notoriously shoddy roads is now law.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed the package of bills to increase road funding just before 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“The point I would make to you, when you look at this overall situation, this is largest investment in transportation in Michigan in the last 50 years. Let’s remember that and be proud of that,” he said, flanked by stakeholders and lawmakers.
His signature came a week to the day after the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate reached a deal that was supported almost entirely by Republicans.
The plan uses $600 million in general fund money plus $400 million in additional fuel taxes and $200 million in registration fee increases.
Democrats worry that using existing funds for roads will hurt other priorities.
“It will not fix the roads, and at that same time it will blow a huge hole in the budget that will jeopardize funding for education, public safety and health care,” House Minority Leader Tim Greimel said, blasting the plan.
Snyder said the big cuts Democrats are worried about just won’t materialize.
“We’ve seen good economic growth over the last few years, and if we continue on that path, there should be resources so we don’t have to cut anything,” he said.
The increases in fees and taxes will not go into effect until January 2017.
Democrats assert that the money comes too late and won’t fix the roads, instead letting them continue to deteriorate. But while the new plan doesn’t roll out fully for six years, Snyder says that’s not a problem and that he believes the gradual increase in funds will be enough to fix roads.
Democrats have released a new series of radio commercials criticizing Republican House members who voted for the plan and are in vulnerable districts in the 2016 election.
But it’s not just Democrats who have problems with the plan. Many Republicans also objected to it, saying tax increases were what voters rejected in May.
Speaking to 24 Hour News 8 on Monday, Snyder the plan struck a good compromise.
“On one hand, we had people saying, ‘You shouldn’t be using any general fund money,’ and we had other people saying we should do it all through the general fund, so this is a good balance,” Snyder told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “This is the way the legislative process should work.”
He said the changes represent Michigan’s “largest investment in transportation in the last 50 years.”
“The last time they did something, it was back in 1997. Inflation adjusted, it was less than a nickel a gallon (in gas taxes),” Snyder said.
The plan approved last week includes 7.3 cents more per gallon in gasoline taxes and an additional 11.3 cents per gallon for diesel fuel, as well a 20 percent hike in registration fees.
“Registration fees hadn’t changed for 30 years,” Snyder added. “So let’s be happy about the positive progress we’re making and let’s work on having a good outcome because better roads make for a better economy and more jobs.”