Skubick: The back-and-forth of the road fix vote

- Last Monday night the two top GOP leaders in the legislature were at an event and, for the first time in a long time, it looked like a road fix was finally at hand.

The Senate GOP leader Arlan Meekhof told the House GOP Speaker Kevin Cotter the Senate Republicans were ready to help House Republicans in the next election by passing their version of a road fix. The one with the 3.3 cent gas tax hike, a 40 percent car registration fee and $600 million out of the state's check book.

The two shook hands and with what must have been an air of optimism they awaited the rising of the morning sun over the House of Lords.

Word reached this listening post about 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. "Here's the deal," the inside source began. The Senate is going to make some minor language changes in the House plan, send it back over to them.  They will pass it and then onto the governor for his signatures. Never mind that Gov. Rick Snyder was not getting nearly as much as he wanted. Yet there was every indication he would take what he could get and be done with it, even though his original plan was the "right thing to do."  It looked like so much for that.

So the watered-down plan was teed-up for final approval. Ah, but alas, when the Senate Republicans met behind closed doors to supposedly add the grease to the House plan a funny thing happened. Instead of grease, crazy glue was added instead.

Turns out there were beefs all over the joint.

One senator got up and noted that he or she was being asked to raise taxes but the roads would not be fixed because the House plan did not generate enough revenue. In fact, the gas tax would not kick in until 2018 with how many potholes later? And the governor's magical figure of $1.2 billion a year for ten years would not begin until 2021.

Then there was the hefty 40 percent car registration fee, which conveniently is sent out just around the time you light the candles on your birthday cake; hence the moniker Birthday Tax.

Sen. Jack Brandenburg (R-Macomb County) did a TV interview lamenting many families with three or four cars would end up shelling out about a thousand bucks just to buy a license tab. "I'm voting no," he stood his ground and he apparently was not alone as the senate GOP leader reported there was a good deal of "heart-burn" over the fee increase.

During this protracted an agonizing back and forth over the last few months, it appeared that both sides and the governor were committed to a bi-partisan solution. The theory being if there is going to be a tax hike, if everyone jumped over the cliff together, the political damage to both parties would be equal. But the House plan got one lousy Democratic vote and that from a guy who's been booted from the Democratic caucus.

With 27 GOP votes in the Senate, everyone figured Senator Meekhof could round-up at least 20 votes to get this job done. He could not, and so instead of a GOP vote without any Democrats, word went out that the Rs might have to work with the Ds eventually.

"I'm not voting for this," argues Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-Lansing) who joined those in the GOP caucus suggesting this was a smoke and mirrors tax hike that would not fix the potholes and eventually motorists would figure this out.

And on top of that, Democrats were still bothered by the $600 million in funds swiped out of the General Fund and there was at least one Republican who fretted over that too and it's impact on state services.

So in the end, one of the hands in the Monday night dinner, the senate GOP leader, threw-up his hands and went back to the drawing board with the road fix still up in the air where it has been for over three years.
 


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