Michigan Preparing For Government Shutdown Over Infrastructure Spending
Republicans look for a short-term boost, while a Democratic governor fights for long-term funding and a tax hike.
September 27, 2019 at 8:50 pm
The state of Michigan is preparing for a government shutdown as a Democratic governor and Republican legislators have been unable to reach a deal on the budget.
According to The Hill, the state congress passed a $59.9 billion state budget Tuesday, a week ahead of the end of the fiscal year. Their version of the budget included about $400 million in one-time funding for infrastructure projects around the state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, however, has proposed longer-term funding to pay for infrastructure fixes and a 45-cent increase in the per-gallon gas tax.
“These budgets are a mess,” Whitmer said in a statement after the Legislature voted. “Republicans are playing more shell games with the state budget so they can buy a phony talking point that they’re spending ‘record money’ on roads.”
The state's Republicans have accused Whitmer of walking away from the negotiating table earlier in the month, making a shutdown all but inevitable.
“Over the past couple of weeks, the administration has walked out of the room and refused to negotiate with us,” state House Speaker Lee Chatfield told The Hill.
Infrastructure spending was a large part of Whitmer's campaign for governor in 2018, with a survey done by the transportation research group showing that nearly half the state’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. The group estimated in March that driving on roads in such conditions could cost the average Michigan driver between $500 and $800 a year in repair costs or vehicle depreciation.
Despite the numbers and the effect the road's conditions have on Michigan drivers, a poll conducted by the Republican firm Marketing Resource Group in April found that 75% of likely Michigan voters opposed Whitmer’s proposal to hike the gas tax to fund new infrastructure, including 58% of Democrats.
Even with the seemingly growing divide, Chatfield has still left the door open for a last-minute negotiated deal.
“Sometimes divided government can be bumpy,” he said during this week's legislative session, according to the Hill. “In divided government, it takes real leadership to get things done.”
If negotiations are not made by Tuesday morning, state agencies are prepared to shut down their operations.