LANSING, Mich. (WJBK) - Close but no cigar.
The Michigan House deserves an "A" for effort as it tried to fix the roads, but once the citizens discover that instead of staying in town to continue those efforts, they left for another summer break, they may get an "F" instead.
It was an intense legislative day last Wednesday and at the outset there was geninue optimism that finally, after one pratfall after another, the Michigan House would finally get its act together and pass something to repair the crumbling road system.
All the elements were there. Rep. Al Pscholka (R) West Michigan was even telling one reporter the revenue piece to raise $600 million was basically there. The plan included a nickel gas tax increase, which he labeled a "63 cent a week increase," and a $20-$30 annual car registration fee boost that meant the typical motorist would pay 60 bucks a year for the roads.
You had Democratic Mayor Mike Duggan working closely with the House Rs and the governor to round up Democratic and GOP support for the package. Everybody knew without Democrats the package would fail because the Republicans did not have enough votes on its side to get to 55 votes.
And then the hours ticked off. And word spread that the illusive "deal" would remain illusive.
Rep. Peter Pettalia (R) said his constituents were ready to support the gas tax hike but "keep it simple" he reported they were telling him. That is code for, pass the road revenue but make darn sure it goes into the roads and nothing else.
And that's where the wheels fell off the buggy into a giant pothole.
House Democrats wanted assurances that the Rs would not push a repeal of prevailing wage.
House Democrats wanted a list of where the other side would slice $600 million out of state services to fix the roads.
They wanted a guarantee that revenue to the cities would not be part of those cuts.
The Snyder administration and the Ds chimed in they wanted $200 million added to the revenue side of the package to cover the costs of an obscure health insurance tax that would help avoid a budget deficit in Medicaid down the road.
And as the list got longer, the simplicity evaporated and by 9 p.m., the House GOP Speaker cried uncle.
"Unfortunately our negotiations have been a bid derailed," a dejected Rep. Kevin Cotter reported, "and other things that are not roads have been attempted to be added to it."
Mr. Pscholka was not exactly happy either saying, "I think folks wanted to go home tonight with a solution."
And back home is where it could get ugly.
Somebody, somewhere is going to ask the poignant question, why are you back here and not in Lansing working on this?
There was no reason house members had to leave on Wednesday night. They could have stayed in town until the job was done.
The senate was nowhere to be found during the whole week despite the proclamation last Spring that the senate would work during the summer to get this done.
Everyone supposedly will be back Sept 9 th to renew the hunt for a road fix.
To legislative critics, the optics here seem a little fuzzy. It appears that taking more time off is more important than sticking around and doing what the folks at home elected them to do.
Sure the leaders will say they will continue to work behind the scenes to craft a deal in the interium, but will that appease the folks back home who wanted a fix yesterday.