MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday his most immediate legislative priority is making sure lawmakers approve state money to help resolve Detroit's bankruptcy case, but added he is hopeful that a recent bipartisan deal on raising the minimum wage bodes well for reaching another deal on road spending.
The $195 million bankruptcy legislation, which won bipartisan approval in the Republican-led House last week, is up for consideration in the GOP-led Senate. The Republican governor pointed out that creditors are voting now on a proposal to rescue pensioners and the Detroit Institute of Arts with hundreds of millions of dollars from foundations, the museum and, possibly, the state.
No money from any of the parties would be given if 30,000 retirees and city employees reject the plan to cut their pensions no more than 4.5 percent.
"The sooner (the bills) can get resolved, hopefully that gives people more confidence in how they vote," Snyder told The Associated Press in an interview during the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island. "It's important to get a positive outcome to that relatively soon."
Legislators may be in session for two more weeks before breaking for the summer, though they could stay until the end of June depending on how talks over the next state budget and transportation funding go.
Snyder spoke a day after signing into law a gradual minimum wage increase. The rate will rise from $7.40 an hour to $9.25 by 2018, after which it will increase with inflation. Democrats considering a Senate proposal to significantly raise gasoline and diesel taxes to boost road and bridge funding had wanted assurances on the minimum wage. It remains to be seen if a bipartisan deal can be struck to boost transportation spending by more than a $450 million increase recently passed by the House.
"There's a pretty pressing need on transportation, too," Snyder said, saying drivers are sustaining damage to their tires because of bad roads. "The cost of that can far exceed the cost of what it would cost for us to have better roads."
He said the wage increase and road funding are separate issues, but "this might be helpful in terms of bipartisan efforts showing we can work well together." Asked if he supports the Senate plan to more than double fuel taxes, end a reduction in license plate fees the first three years a vehicle is titled and make other changes, Snyder said, "It's a solution that would work."
A plan he proposed last year to raise fuel taxes and registration fees got no traction in the Capitol.
The governor's Democratic opponent in this November's election, Mark Schauer, said Wednesday that Snyder has talked about better funding roads for 3 ½ years and that "we'll see" if the Legislature acts.
"This can't just be another middle-class tax hike," he said, alluding to the 2011 decision by Snyder and GOP lawmakers to offset a business tax cut by eliminating some tax exemptions for pensioners, low-income earners and homeowners.
Schauer said he would like to see "shared sacrifice," with businesses helping foot some of the cost.
The House has passed a bill that would raise fees and fines on overweight trucks to help boost road funding. The Senate, for now, has not taken it up.
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