Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 12, 2013

Road funding talks stuck at a standstill

LANSING (AP) High-level talks over fixing Michigan's deteriorating roads are at a standstill in the Capitol, with Republican and Democratic leaders still unable to agree much on how to even start.

Feeling burned by passage of a right-to-work law five months ago, Democrats won't consider tax or fee increases without public assurances that GOP Gov. Rick Snyder will veto other legislation seen as damaging to their cause. Specifically, they want a repeal of a law guaranteeing better wages on government construction projects taken off the table, along with a potential bill dividing the state's electoral votes proportionally.

Majority Republicans counter that Democrats must move beyond making demands and put forth their own road-funding proposals.

Neither side appears to be budging.

Asked Thursday if any progress has been made, Snyder said "it's going slower than what I'd like" given a goal to finalize the next state budget within a month.

"People are still in talks and discussions. This is a very difficult topic," he said, pointing out that Michigan's gasoline tax was last raised in 1997.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whiter, an East Lansing Democrat, said legislative leaders and Snyder haven't all met together since a heated meeting 2 ½ weeks ago.

"If we're going to sit down and hammer out a grand bargain for infrastructure and other issues facing our state, trust has got to be established again or earned," she said.

If Snyder publicly commits to keeping the prevailing wage law intact or not ending the state's winner-take-all system in presidential elections, she said, it would help. Taking both off the table "would be ideal," Whitmer said.

Frustrated Republicans say the negotiating tactic is unhelpful.

"They're saying, 'We want everything we want and then we'll give you no assurance that we'll help you with solving the road problems,'" said House Speaker Jase Bolger. "We're saying, 'Please, give us a list of what you want but participate in providing the solution at the same time.' ... We've continued to reach our hand out and that hand has not been returned."

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