Michigan moving to expedite road spending

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The Michigan House voted Wednesday to speed up $175 million of planned spending on road and transportation projects.

Gov. Rick Snyder had proposed spending the money in the new budget year, which starts Oct. 1, but lawmakers are looking to tap a budget surplus sooner in response to the poor road conditions. The plan still must be approved by the Senate. A vote on the measure is expected as early as next week.

The House Appropriations committee and full House of Representatives voted unanimously Wednesday for the road funding and the Senate is expected to follow suit next week.

“As we all know, the roads are kind of crazy, so time is of the essence,” said state Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’re proposing to take action now to allow communities time to prepare for the construction season.”

Snyder is supportive of getting the funding allocated as soon as possible, a spokesperson said.

The plan would allocate an extra $38.2 million to cities and villages, $68.4 million to county road commissions and $68.4 million to the state.

Snyder had unveiled a plan to increase spending in infrastructure at the beginning of February. The $175 million increase for a total expenditure of $325 million would more than double the $150 million under a 2015 transportation-funding deal that is gradually being phased in. Snyder said the money was a one-time infusion to be paid for by "lapse" funding, or funding the state appropriated for specific causes but didn't end up using.

Democrats proposed amendments to the road funding bill that would add another $75 million into road improvements by either shifting money from the state’s rainy day fund or bonding for some state projects. But both those amendments failed on party-line votes with Republicans opposing and Democrats supporting the additional money.

"We have not invested in our roads and bridges effectively," said House Minority Leader Sam Singh, D-East Lansing. "This $175 million is a good thing, but you’re just moving it from one year to the next and you’re not fooling the people back home."

A report Snyder commissioned in December 2016 argued that Michigan is underinvesting in infrastructure by about $4 billion per year. Transportation infrastructure alone has an annual investment shortfall of $2.7 billion, the report said, that will exceed $40 billion over the next 20 years.

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