Whitmer, GOP leaders will proceed on budget without road fix

Posted at 11:24 AM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 11:24:23-04

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders announced Monday that they will work to enact a state budget without including a long-term funding plan to fix Michigan’s deteriorating roads.

The agreement should forestall the possibility of an Oct. 1 partial government shutdown. But it also strips the first-year governor of leverage as she seeks a nearly $2 billion influx of new spending on road and bridge construction in a state that ranks second to last nationally in per-capita road spending.

Whitmer and GOP leaders had been unable to agree on an alternative after her proposed 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike was declared dead.

“The people of Michigan deserve leadership in Lansing that will work to continue providing them with services they depend on every day,” said a joint statement issued by Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

They agreed over the weekend to immediately begin working to set spending targets for the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

“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. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and negotiating on behalf of the people of Michigan.”

The announcement came days after Republicans internally agreed to their own spending levels, without input from Whitmer — setting the stage for a showdown. Whitmer, who campaigned on a pledge to fix the roads, on Friday accused GOP leaders of leading the state toward a “Trump-style shutdown,” while Chatfield’s spokesman said she was holding the budget “hostage” over her “extreme gas tax agenda.”