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Could Michigan lawmakers trade education funding for roads?

Massive pothole in the middle of a two-lane road.
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers return to Lansing this week after a two week break for deer hunting and Thanksgiving.

Every Republican and Democratic leader at the state Capitol says fixing Michigan’s roads will be the top priority between now and the end of the year.

“Certainly, the primary focus will be on discovering a solution for funding of transportation in Michigan, specifically roads and bridges that are in desperate need of repair,” said Ari Adler, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

Adler says the speaker wants more taxes paid at the pump to go to roads.

“One of the main concerns we’ve heard from people is they want to make sure that the money that they are paying in taxes for roads actually goes to roads and does not get siphoned off to other things,” he said.

Much of the sales tax you pay at the pump currently goes to the School Aid Fund – a fund that pays for higher education and K-12 schools.

Here’s more about how the taxes you pay at the pump are distributed.

Democrats and school groups are worried lawmakers will pass a plan that cuts money from the School Aid Fund.

Moving money from education to roads opens up the proposal to criticism.

Executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association Mike Nystrom admits that the way fuel is taxed in Michigan creates challenges.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

"The sales tax is a challenge for us in Michigan," Nystrom said. "You can't just pull the rug out from education. We're just happy it's a high priority."

The Michigan Senate has a different proposal.

They recently passed a bill that would effectively double the taxes people pay at the pump for roads. That plan would not affect education funding and could boost state spending on roads by up to $1.5 billion a year.

The window for finding a workable solution to road funding in Michigan is closing. Kathleen Gray at the Detroit Free Press points out that a deal is even less likely next year:

Indeed, if a roads fix doesn't happen this year, it may not materialize at all, since the new Legislature and its leaders coming into power on Jan. 1 are more conservative and less amenable to tax hikes, even for roads, than the current crop of lawmakers.

Gov. Rick Snyder will hold events in Metro Detroit today to highlight the need for infrastructure improvements. He says that’s his top priority during the final weeks of his first term.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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