Michigan Senate OKs additional $100 million in road maintenance, bill awaits House approval



Approval of a Feb. 20 bill by the Michigan Senate will shift $100 million statewide to road agencies to help clear roads and fill potholes following a brutal winter.

The supplemental appropriations bill passed 32-6 by the GOP-led Senate, with each Democrat and a majority of Republicans voting yes. Should the bill pass the House of Representatives, $39.1 million will be sent to the Michigan Department of Transportation. The money will be distributed to the counties and the remaining $21.8 million to municipalities statewide.

Isabella County Road Commission Manager Tony Casali cautiously praised the bill, saying it is a nice start, but the increased support will likely not go far enough once the funds reach the county.

"When you start dicing (the budget) all up, it's probably not going to be a real large number," Casali said. "Hopefully, Lansing can look at that. We would definitely be appreciative for whatever it is we receive. We definitely have a large hole to fill right now due to the economics of winter and a possible rough start to the spring with pothole season coming up."

This winter has been one of the most eventful in memory statewide, officials said. Large snowstorms and arctic temperatures have made clearing and maintaining roads difficult for many counties and cities, many of which have faced cuts in recent years due to tight budgets.

"Our maintenance budget for this winter is $88 million, based on the five-year winter average," said MDOT Director Kirk Steudle in a news release. "Due to the severe winter weather, we're expecting to exceed that budget by about $40 million."

The county road commission is facing a budget gap of its own.

"At this point, we're looking at about a $400,000 overage in our budget this year for snow and winter maintenance and probably going to look at another $100,000 to $200,000 in pothole patching possibly," Casali said. "Anything (from the state) is better than nothing."

The $100 million would come from the Road and Risks Reserve Fund, a $115 million fund created last year to help agencies battle rough conditions.

Gov. Rick Snyder has not said if he would sign the bill should it pass the House and reach his desk. He said his administration is in the process of examining local needs statewide.

BREAKOUT BOX: Medicaid funding

The appropriations bill would also dedicate almost $200 million to two Medicaid-related budget shortfalls in the state's budget.

Under the bill passed by the Senate, the state would tap $73 million from the general fund toward Michigan's expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate approved the Medicaid expansion in August, but did not give it the funds to be implemented immediately, delaying implementation until April and creating a shortfall due to a drop off in federal funding. The bill is aimed at closing that budget gap.

Most of the $73 million would go to the Michigan Department of Community Health, which would also receive $25 million for mental health services.

The plan would allocate $114.5 million in matching state funds to keep federal Medicaid dollars entering Michigan at the same rate as they do now.


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