Michigan lawmakers pursue local road funding aid
October 11, 2019
A bill package in the Michigan Senate focuses on how to improve effectiveness by state and local governments to fund repairs for roads and bridges. A similar effort is underway in the state’s House.
The statehouse action comes as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues her pursuit of a long-term road and bridge funding deal. The governor wants a 45-cent increase to the state’s 26.3-cent fuel tax rate.
One Senate bill calls for setting up a panel to investigate the feasibility of charging tolls for roads and bridges.
Sponsored by Sen. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, SB517 calls for state officials to hire an independent consulting firm to study the feasibility of collecting tolls on interstates.
Consideration would be given to the economic impact of toll roads, providing discounts to in-state drivers, toll amounts, and how to pay for the toll. The impact of tolls on out-of-state operators expected to use Michigan interstates would also be considered.
A written report on the firm’s findings would be provided to state officials by January 2021. At that time, the governor would be permitted to move forward with a “strategic plan” to implement tolls.
Two other pieces of legislation in the bill package cover road reporting requirements.
SB515 would require the Michigan Department of Transportation to develop a highway construction inflation index. The index would be used to measure inflation in highway construction costs.
The second bill, SB516, would expand asset management reporting requirements for local and state agencies.
Two more bills are touted to help maximize local road funds.
Sponsored by Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, SB518 would require all federal transportation funds received by the state to be spent by MDOT. An exception would be made for funds specifically allocated by the feds for local jurisdictions or funds allocated to local jurisdictions through a competitive process.
“With the state handling all federal transportation funds and reporting requirements, local agencies can then focus their resources more efficiently,” Runestad said in prepared remarks.
The companion bill, SB519, would use state funds to replace the federal dollars directed to MDOT through SB518. Funds would be directed from the state to counties, cities, and villages.
Runestad said the two bills would give local transportation agencies improved flexibility to address pressing road repaving and repairs.
A related bill, SB521, would require local governments to include plans on how they would maintain and pay for any new infrastructure.
The bills are in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
A House 11-bill package pursues plans to give local governments more tools to get needed road repairs done.
The House package includes one bill to allow county governments to levy a local fuel tax. Sponsored by Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, HB4963 would permit voters in affected areas to decide whether taxes collected would be routed to local road agencies based on population and actual road miles within that county.
Another bill in the package – HB4964 – would give local governments authority to pursue an additional fee on vehicle registrations. Voters would get the final say.
Other bills in the package include asset management planning and bridge work collaboration.
The House bills – HB4963 through HB4973 – are in the House Transportation Committee.