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As Michigan legislators race the clock on a transportation deal, other states plan initiatives

We tapped a nerve in November with the Capital Ideas conference in Denver. More than 30 states sent representatives – some of whom went right back to their states and got to work helping their communities make progress.

Folks in Michigan are working with Gov. Rick Snyder to adopt a long-term, stable funding source for infrastructure. As their session winds to a close this week, legislative leaders are working in a House-Senate conference committee to hammer out a compromise that could bring as much as $1 billion a year in additional funding to repair and improve transportation infrastructure.

Gov. Snyder, who has been pushing for money to fix roads and bridges since coming into office, has seen the lame duck session as an opportunity for the GOP-controlled legislature to adopt a plan to raise additional transportation revenue, according to The Detroit News.

“The money I’m talking about is to get us to fair-to-good roads,” Snyder said, after taking a tour of Detroit’s highways. “They’re not even going to be great roads, folks. … We were the state to put America on wheels. Now we’re also widely known as a state with some of the worst roads in the country, and that’s just unacceptable.”

Over the summer, House Republicans responded by passing a much more modest plan to help fund the road upkeep. The $450 million a year would have come mostly from the general fund rather than a gas tax increase, while converting the 19 cents-per-gallon tax to a 6 percent tax at the wholesale level.

But the governor and Senate leaders preferred a more robust package that did not require taking money from other areas of the state budget. It took until after the election, in November, for the Republican controlled Senate to respond by passing an even larger funding package. The plan would increase the gas tax to the equivalent of 44 cents over four years, based on the wholesale prices.

While Michigan legislators work on their compromise, we already are hearing of transportation initiatives moving in other states. This month James Corless, director of T4America, was invited to testify before the Senate Transportation Committee in Oregon. We also met with legislators, state and local officials, and business leaders in Louisiana to discuss transportation policy and funding options. Many others in our state network are developing plans for the upcoming 2015 legislative sessions.

To join with us in our state work, sign up for the state advocacy network.