Re-elected Rick Snyder says roads No. 1 priority
A newly re-elected Gov. Rick Snyder is hoping to achieve his No. 1 unfinished priority — increasing taxes to improve the roads — before his second term even starts.
The Republican said Wednesday he will push lawmakers to approve a plan to permanently raise more money for transportation funding in their "lame-duck" session before year's end, when roughly a third of the Legislature turns over. A proposal to double fuel taxes came "very close" before stalling in June, he said, when Republicans and Democrats preparing for primary or general elections balked.
"We have that constraint gone. So that framework is still there," Snyder told reporters. "So hopefully we can make progress and get it done because I'd still like to say, 'That was a first-term accomplishment.'"
Snyder had first called for legislative action on road funding three years ago. If nothing happens in November or December, the state Chamber of Commerce could consider backing a petition drive to force a legislative or statewide vote.
Michigan spends less per driver on roads than any other state. Yet is also has some of the country's highest taxes at the pump - the 6 percent sales tax is also applied to motor fuel but mostly goes to schools and local governments under the state constitution.
Flat per-gallon fuel taxes, 19 cents for gasoline, are faulted for declining state transportation revenue as people drive less and with more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Snyder acknowledged having "some concerns" about being able to enact a $1 billion-plus tax hike during the compressed late-year session in which legislators, particularly those subject to term limits, will have their own agendas, too. The House and Senate, where Republicans padded their majorities in Tuesday's election, have 12 scheduled voting days left this year.
"Let's keeping working hard and let's try to get something done," Snyder said.
Lance Binoniemi, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, said the construction trade group is hopeful that the governor's re-election results in a road-funding deal.
"We had some concerns that any major shake-ups from the election could potentially have had a negative impact on chances in lame duck. However, this issue has and always will be a bipartisan one so both side of the aisle will have to come together to find a solution," he said.
Also Wednesday, Snyder laid claim to a "strong mandate" for his second term despite winning by 4 percentage points, a narrower margin than his 18-point victory in 2010.
"I had to make some tough decisions. Everybody likes changes until it arrives, and then it's more challenging," said the governor, who also blamed negative campaign TV ads that criticized his record.