Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

May 22, 2013

Snyder, GOP lawmakers agree to budget targets

LANSING (AP) — Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and leaders of the GOP majority in the Legislature reached a budget agreement Tuesday for next fiscal year that doesn’t include an expansion of government health insurance for low income-adults and puts Michigan’s unexpected surplus toward funding roads and K-12 education.

Lawmakers have an extra $700 million to use in finalizing a roughly $49 billion spending plan thanks to better-than-expected tax collections. Michigan collected about $483 million more in taxes than expected in January for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 and projections for the next fiscal year are also higher than previously expected.

Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education President Kelly Hall said about $140 million of the excess revenue will go toward K-12 schools.

“It’s good news for local districts, and it’s my understanding that Sen. Howard Walker was instrumental in this decision,” Hall said. “It’s really good news for TCAPS.”

Grand Traverse County Road Commission Manager Jim Cook said he’s been “cautiously optimistic” about where lawmakers would allocate the revenue.

“I think we’re pretty excited,” Cook said. “At this point we’ll be interested to see what the details include.”

Cook said the additional funding will help but won’t solve what he described as years of “neglected” infrastructure. A recent calculation by the commission indicated $85 million is needed to bring all of Grand Traverse County’s roads to good or fair condition.

“We the people of northern Michigan really have to step up and face the fact that we’re really going to have to address improving our infrastructure,” he said. “I think long-term we need to look at a winter maintenance millage so we’re not spending $3 million plowing snow. That’s $3 million we could invest back into our roads.”

House Speaker Jase Bolger said the plan agreed to Tuesday reflects “a priority for K-12 education, for roads, for saving and for paying down debt.” The Marshall Republican has been meeting with Senate Minority Leader Randy Richardville of Monroe and Snyder aides to complete spending targets for the budget that takes effect Oct. 1.

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