Michigan lawmakers scramble for road funds

| 6/21/2011

Facing drastic revenue shortfalls and budget cutbacks while trying to pay for services expected by the public, Michigan lawmakers are considering legislation to add funds for road work.

A bill nearing passage at the statehouse would tap unpaid parking tickets to provide a boost for local governments.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to advance a bill to the House floor that would allow the state to block driver’s license renewals for people who accumulate three or more unpaid parking tickets in the same community. The Senate previously approved the bill on a 26-12 vote.

If approved by the full House, SB130 would move to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

This is the second time in as many years the funding effort has come before lawmakers. A year ago the Senate voted to kill the funding effort after House lawmakers approved it.

Michigan law requires six or more unpaid parking tickets from the same community before a hold can be put on a motorist’s driver’s license renewal. People found in violation can get their licenses renewed only after paying the overdue fines and a $45 clearance fee – of which local governments receive one-third of the fee.

Supporters say that communities stand to receive a shot in the arm for transportation funding if the bill goes through. A legislative analysis states the city of Detroit has $30 million in parking tickets that are outstanding.

Others say the change is good for motorists, too, because it would force them to pay sooner rather than later when larger parking fines and late fees add up.

Critics are concerned about the likelihood of more motorists driving without valid driver’s licenses and without insurance.

Separately, a legislative package would rely on other budgets to ease the squeeze on funding for road repairs.

Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, wants to tap the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund to provide a boost for transportation projects. If he gets his way, roads would claim 60 percent of the trust fund’s annual revenues.

Advocates for the switch say it would create construction jobs and leverage federal funds. They also say that no one is interested in paying higher taxes to pay for needed improvements.

Because the trust fund is protected by the Michigan Constitution, voters must sign off on changes to how the money is distributed.

Agema’s package – HB4021, HB4028 and HJRB – are in the House Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan, click here.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.