Groups call on Legislature to continue work on budget, roads, revenue

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

    The GOP-led Michigan House and Senate have passed versions of the fiscal year 2020 budget far apart from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal for roads, school and the safety net.

    As the Legislature plans to take a break from votes until after the July Fourth holiday — at least — without an any agreements with the governor, a host of business groups are calling on lawmakers to come up with $2 to $2.5 billion annually for infrastructure funding.

    Michigan Chamber of Commerce | Susan J. Demas

    The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lansing Regional Chamber, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Realtors Association, the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Midland Business Alliance joined together in a statement:

    “As budget negotiations continue, job providers are clear that fixing Michigan’s worst-in-the-nation transportation infrastructure is a top priority. As the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission and other reports illustrate, solving this problem will require a multi-year investment of billions of new dollars. We acknowledge there are differences of opinion regarding how to secure $2 to $2.5 billion annually, but the need is not in question.

    The business groups continued that they want to see a road-funding deal this year before the 2020 election.

    “Michigan’s economic competitiveness is harmed by our failing infrastructure and we expect our elected leaders to work cooperatively to dramatically improve roads and bridges across the state,” the groups said. “The window of opportunity that exists in this nonelection year must not be wasted, and we strongly believe meaningful progress needs to be achieved prior to recessing for the summer.”

    Gilda Z. Jacobs

    Meanwhile, the nonpartisan economic justice group, the Lansing-based Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP, slammed the Legislature for passing “hollow budget bills” before leaving town. The MLPP backs Whitmer’s 45-cent gas tax increase for roads and her proposal to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to help low-income workers.

    MLPP President and CEO Gilda Jacobs said that a bipartisan compromise is needed to “address the state’s biggest need — revenue” to fund priorities like education and child care.

    “Despite Gov. Whitmer’s bold and refreshing call for new revenue to invest in the things we need as a state, lawmakers in the House and Senate dropped the ball on that and the many positive policy improvements she recommended in her budget proposal, and now they are simply taking their ball and going home,” said Jacobs. “When lawmakers are back home for the next few weeks, I hope they will at least take some time to listen to their constituents about what they want to see in the state budget. And I’d venture a guess that whatever district they live in and whatever they and their family need, it requires revenue and investment, not cuts.”

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    Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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