Lame Duck Road Money Draws Ire From Educators Praise From County Road Assoc.

Fix the roads or teach the kids? While one group is praising Gov. Rick Snyder’s supplemental appropriation bill dollars for roads that wrapped up the Lame Duck session of the Michigan Legislature early this morning, another is crying foul over the tactics that were used to get those dollars.

The County Road of Association and Michigan voiced appreciation for “a gift to the people of Michigan in the form of additional road funds” in that supplemental appropriation bill initiated by Snyder and approved by the Legislature in the wee hours of the morning today, Friday, December 21st.

The $1.25 billion appropriations bill includes $114 million for roads, of which county road agencies will share $44.6 million, according to the traditional state formula. The County Road Association says the inclusion and approval of these funds in the supplemental appropriations bill “shines more light on the great need for road funding now and in the future.”

Meanwhile, the Michigan Education Association calls the appropriation “a Lame Duck raid of School Aid Fund tax revenue in favor of increased funding for road and environmental projects.” The 2am vote in the State House on HB 4991 barely passed, and the Senate concurred in the amended bill with both chambers acting on the supplemental appropriations bill to spend that and other surplus revenue before the new Whitmer administration can propose a new budget.

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The MEA says that the bill reduces the amount of income tax earmarked for the School Aid Fund to offset increased revenue from the online sales tax that goes directly to the SAF. The union says, “Similar to the shell game where Lottery revenue goes to schools only to allow other revenue to flow elsewhere, this measure would reduce the revenue in the SAF available to fund K-12 schools,” and points out, “This is NOT a cut to current per pupil funding – the additional funding from the online sales tax had not been appropriated yet and is not part of this  year’s budgeted state school aid payments. However, it IS money that should have gone into the School Aid Fund to allow for increases in coming years.”

Denise Donohue is Director at the County Road Association of Michigan. She says, “County road agencies appreciate and need these funds to continue repairing and rebuilding Michigan’s crumbling county road and bridge system.” She adds, “The timing as the year ends is nice, as it allows road agencies to prioritize how they will use these funds and seek local matching dollars before spring rolls around. We extend our hearty thanks to Gov. Snyder and the 99th Legislature for their support that is so important to commerce, tourism and all drivers in Michigan.”

“In the end,” says the Michigan Education Association, “The lost revenue could have translated to per pupil increases of $95 in 2018-19, $117 in 2019-20 and $120 in 2020-21. While those amounts would not have closed the nearly $2,000 shortfall in per pupil funding identified by the School Finance Research Collaborative, this legislation yet again prioritizes funding other projects over the education of Michigan’s children. We will be hard at work with the incoming Whitmer administration to address our broken school funding system and ensure our students get the adequate funding they deserve.”