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All eyes on road funding as legislative leaders hope for vote this week

Jake Neher

Top lawmakers hope to reach a compromise this week on road funding bills.

The state House recently approved a $1.2 billion plan that in equal parts raises taxes and shifts money from other areas of the budget.

Some critics of that plan say diverting that much money from other programs will hurt Michiganders and is fiscally reckless.

But Governor Rick Snyder says is can be done responsibly.

“It comes down to a lot of the numbers and looking at the financial forecasts,” said Snyder.

“If you look at the forecast of the future of our state, we’re forecasted to have some reasonable economic growth. Is it a straight line? There’s ups and down. But Michigan is doing much better today,” the governor told a meeting of higher education officials in Lansing, who asked whether the budget shifts would affect their funding.

Snyder says the expected economic growth will mean higher state revenues, which could offset any cuts to programs caused by the funding shift for roads.

Democrats say they won’t support any road funding plan that significantly increases vehicle registration fees.

The House plan would raise registration fees by 40% starting next October. Drivers pay the fees each year before their tabs expire on their birthday.

Critics call it a “birthday tax.”

“It’s a fee you will pay and a tax you’ll pay every time you celebrate your birthday,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t one you can re-gift to somebody else. It’s going to be the gift that keeps on giving and you’re going to have to keep on forking it over if Republicans have their way.”

Many state Senate Republicans have similar concerns. They refused to vote for the House plan last week because it relied heavily on increasing registration fees.

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