CHICAGO - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday he would meet immediately with lawmakers to seek a legislative solution to raise new road money after voters Tuesday soundly rejected a tax referendum.
The sales-tax increase question went down by a vote of 80% to 20%. the largest margin of defeat for any constitutional amendment in Michigan history.
The measure would have increased the state's sales tax to 7% from 6%, raising $1.7 billion in new annual revenue. The majority of that, $1.2 billion, would have gone to transportation infrastructure, with roughly $400 million going to local governments and schools.
The referendum was part of a 10-bill package lawmakers passed in December. A ballot referendum was considered a compromise for those lawmakers who did not want to raise the gas tax, which would not have needed voter approval.
The overwhelming defeat marks a big setback for Snyder, who has spent five months urging voters to support the amendment and more than four years asking lawmakers for new road money. Snyder has made fixing Michigan's roads and bridges one of his top priorities, saying it's crucial to the state's overall recovery.
After Tuesday's election, Snyder said he would immediately go back to the Legislature and continue to push for a long-term solution.
"Although this solution didn't work for people, hopefully there is something that we can get done in a prompt fashion," Snyder said in a conference call with reporters. "Doing one-time or short-term fixes isn't really a great answer unless there's a long-term solution in place."
Snyder said he did not want to tap into rainy-day funds or reserves to raise one-time funds for the roads. But other lawmakers indicated they would introduce bills doing just that. House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, said he would introduce a measure that would rely on restricted funds for road funding.
"I want to look beyond the general fund," Cotter told the Detroit News.
State Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, said he plans to introduce as soon as today a bill that would allow the state to tap into the state's so-called catastrophic fund for road money.
Another group of Republicans said they would renew their push for a plan that passed the House last year that would divert money for cities and schools to roads.
In other Michigan ballot news, voters across the state approved the bulk of the big-ticket bond questions for school districts.
Farmington Public Schools won approval to issue $131.5 million of bonds after two earlier defeats and Ann Arbor Public Schools won approval for a $33 million issue. Voters also approved a $64.6 million bond question for South Lyons school district. Voters gave the thumbs up to the Berkley School District to borrow $59 million of bonds and to a $66 million bond issuance by Birmingham Public Schools.
Voters defeated a request from the Pontiac school district, which operates under a consent agreement with the state, for a proposed five-year $35 million levy to raise money for new projects. School officials said that they may be forced to close some buildings if the proposal fails.