MITA Supports Efforts to Increase Use of Water Quality Bonds
The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association expressed its support May 3rd for efforts to increase the utilization of the Great Lakes Water Quality Bonds approved by voters in 2002. The proposal designated $1 billion to repair and replace municipal sewer systems and to date only $1.5 million has been used.
Legislation, HB 4572 and HB 4573, was approved by the Michigan House of Representatives May 3rd that will allow local communities to use portions of the available funds as grants to cover studies and engineering projects that are necessary to get much-needed upgrades underway. Currently, the bond funds can only be applied to the actual improvements and many municipalities consider the upfront costs as one barrier to the increased utilization of the bonds.
Making the most of the Great Lakes Water Quality Bonds will create good-paying jobs and help protect the environment. This legislation is one important component of a plan that will encourage communities to take advantage of this powerful economic tool and allow them to more efficiently and effectively manage natural resources.
In January, MITA created a task force to examine how to assist communities in maximizing the use of the bonds. The group — which includes representatives of local governments, environmentalists and businesses — has been meeting regularly and expects to release a comprehensive report this spring.
Washington Fly-In Follow-up
Over 40 members of Michigan's transportation construction industry traveled to Washington D.C. last week to urge Congress to pass legislation that will increase federal transportation funding for the state. The group, led by MITA, met with nearly every member of Michigan's congressional delegation as well as several key committee representatives from around the nation.
On May 9th the Senate is scheduled to return from their May recess and consider legislation recently approved by the House of Representatives (HR3 TEA-LU) that would authorize long-term surface transportation funding. This version of the bill would result in at least $185 million more per year in road funding for Michigan. The current authorization extension is set to expire May 31, 2005.
While in Washington the group urged Congress to avoid a 7th extension and to pass a long-term bill before the expiration deadline. The message in Washington was "get it done and get it done right", meaning that the group lobbied Congress hard to make sure no more long-term extensions are considered and Michigan gets its fair share back in terms of a minimum guaranteed rate-of-return of at least 92%.
Michigan has long been a donor state receiving only 90.5 cents back on every dollar its taxpayers send to Washington. The Michigan group also organized a meeting of other donor state representatives to strengthen the message to lawmakers and highlight the need for more equitable funding. Over 75 individuals from 14 other states attended the meeting.
We will keep you updated as further developments that occur in Washington.
MITA Continues to Fight $10 Million Transportation Fund Transfer
MITA continues to lobby the state legislature very aggressively with regard to the $10 million reverse supplemental, which passed the House of Representatives at the end of April. The reverse supplemental consists of $10 million being transferred out of the Michigan Transportation Fund to the Secretary of State in order to help balance the budget for that department. MITA is making a strong case in Lansing that in a time when highway dollars are needed the most that it is completely illogical to rob from highway funds in order to balance state bureaucracies.
MITA will continue to very aggressively fight the diversion on this specific issue as well as the overall inter-departmental grant issue.
Contact Mike Nystrom with any comments or concerns regarding the issues listed in this bulletin, or any other legislative issues.