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Thu February 20, 2014
$100 million for emergency road repairs and plowing clears state Senate
The state Senate has approved a plan to fix and maintain roads being ripped apart by brutal winter weather. The Senate passed a mid-year budget bill Thursday that includes $100 million of emergency money for roads.
The state Department of Transportation and local governments have been constantly running snow plows, spreading salt, and patching potholes. That means they're looking at huge winter budget overages.
"Our locals are struggling already and exhausted those funds that they have, and we needed to do something to help them out," said state Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says $100 million of emergency money would certainly help. But he says it's not clear whether that amount will stay intact through the legislative process.
"We'll still have the governor and the other chamber to deal with," said Richardville. "We'll see if they want to spend the same amount as we do. But we sent a message as to where we are."
Earlier this week, Richardville told reporters he thought the $100 million amount might be too high - but voted in favor of the supplemental budget bill a day later. He says he's not sure what kind of impact that amount of money will have.
"We're not going to fix the problems with $100 million, $30 million, $50 million, whatever," he said. "We just are going to try to get to the worst of the problems. But it's going to be hard to ascertain where those are."
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) says it expects to go over its $88 million winter budget by $40 million because of the extreme weather. The department says that means it will probably have to cut back on things like garbage cleanup and grass cutting for the next several months. Governor Rick Snyder has not committed to any dollar amount. He says the state needs to study how much money is needed to help the worst-hit areas.
The governor is urging lawmakers to come up with a long-term solution to address the state's crumbling infrastructure. He says the state needs to boost road funding by more than $1 billion a year.