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Snyder: Gas tax, Medicaid plans make fiscal sense

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 9, 2013 at 8:01 am •  Published: February 9, 2013
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder's go-to argument in asking lawmakers to back $2.5 billion in new spending for road repairs and health insurance for low-income adults may seem counterintuitive.

Not adding the significant influx of money to the next budget, he says, would actually hurt the state's bottom line.

Get used to these figures as the Republican governor, a former accountant, seeks support from residents and skeptical GOP legislators in coming months:

— $25 billion, the bill Snyder says the state would be stuck with later if it does not spend $1.2 billion more a year on road and bridge maintenance in the next decade.

— 2035, the year he says the state would effectively start owing anything to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of people under the federal health care law. That is because initially, the people who get medical and mental health care from state-funded programs would be covered by federal money. The governor says if the savings are tucked away for future use, Michigan would be off the hook for 21 years.

How effectively Snyder makes his fiscal pitches could determine the fate of the two biggest proposed spending increases in the budget.

It will not be easy because, bottom line, some Democratic and Republican lawmakers would have to stomach voting for higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. State gas taxes have not gone up since 1997. Though former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm had no luck raising transportation revenues, Snyder is making it a bigger priority than she did.

"If we treat this as normal politics, it probably won't get done," he said during a town hall-style event Thursday night in Grand Rapids, the same day he unveiled his budget. His previous call for more road cash went nowhere in 2012, an election year.

Snyder said he has never once heard participants in his town halls say they like their roads. He is asking drivers to pay $120 more per vehicle per year and frames it as a chance to save on vehicle repairs and have safer roads.

Spending $1 to maintain a road in "fair" condition eliminates or delays spending $6-14 later if it becomes a "very poor" road, according to his administration.

Initial reaction in the Capitol has perhaps been less muted than to past road-funding bills. The Senate's Republican leader appointed a new seven-member committee Thursday to review Snyder's proposal, and it includes veterans not eligible for another Senate run in 2014 because of term limits.

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