The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 05, 2014

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

‘Shell game’ latest plan for road money 

LANSING – Work in the state Legislature’s “lame duck” session – which takes place after the general election but before the end of the year – could produce a plan to create a bounty of work for building trades road workers for years to come.

Or maybe it will be wait ’till next year.

Lawmakers who are on the verge of leaving Lansing by virtue of retirement, term limits or losing their election are continuing to struggle to find an agreeable mechanism to dramatically increase funding to repair Michigan’s sorry roads and bridges. The latest scenario, advanced by House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) would gradually end the 6 percent sales tax on gas, while correspondingly increasing the state’s gasoline tax (they’re different pots of money).

The plan would dedicate an additional $1 billion to $1.2 billion per year for road work.

The problem, according to state Democrats and the news service MIRS: the money moves some state tax revenue from gasoline sales away from funding for schools and local governments, shifting it to improve roads. But there’s no plan to replace that income for schools and local governments. Bolger’s plan would rely on projected increases in sales tax revenue over the next several years. The idea is to get the road work done without the need for new revenues created by an increase in gasoline taxes, which is a plan endorsed by Gov. Rick Snyder, most Democrats and some Republicans. The state gas tax hasn’t increased since 1997.

“You can increase funding for roads by a $1 billion, increase funding for schools by a $1 billion and not raise taxes,” said Bolger’s spokesman, Ari Adler.

Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser) told MIRS that the plan is “a shell game.” She added: “It’s just a shift. Leadership begins with fixing the problem structurally.”

Keystone Pipeline vote will return

WASHINGTON, DC — The Keystone Pipeline, which is proposed to extend from the Alberta Oil Sands to Gulf Coast refineries and create thousands of building trades jobs, was rejected in the Senate on Nov. 18.

Construction of the proposed pipeline had a 59-41 majority vote, but the measure failed by a single vote to reach 60 votes and thus avoid a filibuster.  Only 14 Democrats joined 45 Republicans in supporting the bill.

Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, said he was “disappointed that the United States Senate rejected massive, middle class jobs legislation that would have provided the necessary clearance for the Keystone XL pipeline. North America’s Building Trades Unions will make every attempt to engage and assist the president, as well as the leadership and rank and file on both sides of the aisle in the U.S. Congress, in creating a renewed focus on job-creation in the next Congress.”

With a GOP-controlled Congress coming into office in January, a bill to approve construction of the pipeline is sure to be one of the first placed on President Obama’s desk. Obama has not taken a formal position on the pipeline, but he has done nothing to show his support for construction.