Michigan leaders on Monday released a joint statement that they’ve decided to “immediately begin target-setting” to pass a budget by Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
The joint statement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield’s offices said they plan to continue “meaningful” road funding discussions after they pass a budget.
“We have all agreed to continue conversations about road funding in a meaningful way and table all associated issues for the time being,” the statement said. “Right now, our number one priority is getting a budget passed.”
Whitmer previously stated that she wouldn’t sign a budget without about $2.5 billion for roads.
One of Whitmer’s campaign points was to “fix the damn roads,” but the two parties couldn’t meet in the middle of Whitmer’s proposed 45-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase that would push Michigan’s fuel tax to the highest in the nation. Republicans' options were discussed behind closed doors.
Shirkey said on Sept. 6 that Republicans are finalizing the budget without a set plan for additional road revenue.
“We would welcome input from the administration should my governor choose to present budget options that are not dependent upon her 45 cent tax increase,” Shirkey said in a statement.
“All along, the Senate promised to deliver a budget on time and we intend to keep that promise. Discussions on roads with my governor and legislative leaders can continue, but the Senate will not tie the fate of the budget to a deal on roads,” Shirkey continued.
“With all due respect to my governor’s desire to see roads and a budget plan move in concert, we can no longer keep our schools and municipalities waiting while my governor rejects road proposals.”
Chatfield, Shirkey and Whitmer’s offices have not yet responded to requests for an interview.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, (D-Flint), emphasized swift action to minimize accumulating repair costs.
“I think we all agree that fixing the roads comes with a $2.5 billion price tag that’s only going to get bigger,” Ananich said in a statement. “Yes, it’s critical that we get a budget done and signed on time. And yes, we also need to address the condition of our infrastructure with the urgency it requires. It’s incredibly important that we all come back to the negotiating table immediately after the budget’s done, because the roads problem isn’t going away; it’s only going to get worse.”
Crain's Detroit reported that Whitmer would negotiate with Republican leaders if their plan could generate $1.8 billion in new road funding revenue.
The House and Senate have scheduled conference committee meetings Thursday to discuss funding for K-12 schools, universities and other programs.