House committee begins road funding hearings

A special state House committee has begun deliberations on how to find more than $1 billion for roads and transportation. That’s after voters overwhelmingly said “no” to the Legislature’s last plan on the May ballot.

House Republican leaders say they want a solution in hand in less than a month. They say the plan is to search for savings and efficiencies before tackling the tougher questions about raising revenue.

State Representative Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) says the House Roads and Economic Development Committee will explore almost every option.

“Everything is on the table except for something going back to the ballot,” he said following the first hearing. “Nothing will go back to the ballot.”

Farrington says lawmakers got the message that voters want the Legislature to resolve the issue when they rejected Proposal One by a four-to-one margin.

The first hearing focused on warranties for road work and more bidding on construction projects, which are easy to enact but won’t save a whole lot of money. But Farrington says the committee will take on tougher questions as time goes on.

Rich Studley with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce told lawmakers they should look for savings and ways to spend more efficiently. But he says, eventually, they will also have to find ways to generate revenue.

“There is no quick fix,” he said. “There is no silver bullet. We need a comprehensive solution, a multi-year solution to a problem that now at the low end of the range calls for one-point-two, one-point-three billion dollars in spending.”

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has called for higher fuel taxes to pay for roads. Republican lawmakers have consistently rejected that approach, which is also backed by Governor Rick Snyder (R).

In future weeks, the committee will look at diverting funds for other programs to transportation, some fuel tax adjustments, and eliminating the tax credit for low-income working families and using that money for roads.