Gov. Snyder’s trash fee hike for cleanup dies in Legislature

Posted at 12:15 PM, Dec 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-14 12:15:31-05

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to increase trash fees to pay for environmental cleanup is dead in the GOP-controlled Legislature, forcing his administration and legislative leaders to explore other options to shore up the funding.

The Senate did not pass the bill this week, meaning it cannot be enacted before the lame-duck session concludes next week. Snyder had listed the 11-fold hike in the fee for taking waste to landfills as a top legislative priority before he leaves office, but it hit too much resistance from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, of Grand Haven, late Thursday suggested the possibility of shifting existing funds to replace the Clean Michigan Initiative, a 20-year-old voter-approved bond issue that is drying up. He pointed to higher tax collections due to a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that enabled states to require online retailers to collect taxes on purchases from states where they have no physical presence.

“There’s an avenue there to possibly use that revenue, dedicate that revenue to make sure that the brownfields are cleaned up,” Meekhof said.

Snyder had wanted to raise the landfill dumping , or “tipping,” fee from 36 cents per ton — which is higher than the fees in five other Great Lakes states — to $3.99 per ton, which he had said would still have been lower than the regional average. It would have generated $69 million annually to clean up contaminated sites, address emerging contaminants such as per- and -polyfluorinated substances, boost asbestos removal and provide recycling grants. The fee boost would have cost households no more than an additional $3.99 a year, according to his office.

Snyder’s administration and legislators have struggled to find a new revenue source to deal with some 7,000 abandoned paper mills, foundries and other hazardous industrial sites awaiting cleanup. In many cases, the companies that owned them no longer exist, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.

“We are continuing to work with legislative leadership on other revenue sources to ensure we have dedicated funding to continue vital environmental cleanup in Michigan,” Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Friday.

Another Snyder proposal that would add a state fee to water bills for infrastructure needs is still alive because the House took a procedural step this week. But it also is facing opposition. The fee, which would be capped at no more than $20 a year per household and $400 per business annually, would bring in $110 million a year for a state whose infrastructure problems were exposed by the Flint water crisis.

Snyder earlier this week said it would be tough to pass the water and garbage fees, despite them being “important for Michigan’s future. Anytime you’re asking for fees it’s a challenging environment.” He indicated that he would not push for them in exchange for signing other legislation he may not like.

GOP legislators, for example, have been passing bills that would strip power from the incoming Democratic secretary of state and potentially dilute the ability of the new Democratic governor and attorney general to shape the state’s legal strategy.