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Back To Drawing Board On Plan To Fix Michigan Roads

Andrew Cluley

Talks over ways to fix Michigan's roads "back at square one"

State lawmakers are hitting the reset button on talks over how to fix Michigan's crumbling roads.

A state Senate workgroup met for the first time Thursday to hammer out a solution. Senators and staff involved in the meeting say it consisted of members offering wide ranging ideas for how to address the issue.

Most estimates say the state needs to boost road funding by between $1 billion and $2 billion a year just to keep the roads from getting worse.

When talks over how to do that left off in June, lawmakers had just left Lansing for their summer break after failing to pass a number of plans to fix the roads.  

"We've come close to getting the votes necessary to fix this longstanding problem," said state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. "But quite frankly, we're looking at all ideas now - newer ideas. And we're not afraid to entertain anything from anyone."

Senate Democrats want to revisit a plan that would raise the state's gas tax to increase funding for roads. That plan came closest to winning approval in the Senate in June.

But Richardville seems to have moved on from that idea.

"I think that that is probably all but off the table now," he said. "I do not see that happening."

That has some Democrats uneasy about the direction the talks are heading.

"The unfortunate reality of that is that it means we're still further behind than we were three months ago, really, when there was a plan on the table that our side of the aisle put up votes for," said Robert McCann, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.

"And, unfortunately, it was the Republicans that couldn't get their own caucus in place to get that passed."

Sen. Richardville says he hopes the legislature will approve a set of bills in September related to road improvements, but which would not come close to the $1 billion a year needed to fully address the issue.

He says he does not expect lawmakers to pass a comprehensive road funding plan before the November election.