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Tim Skubick: Don't look now, but road funding may increase

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LANSING, Mich. (WJBK) -

What do these folks have in common?

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Teamster truckers, every motorist in the state, and diesel fuel users?

Answer:  They are being targeted to help raise even more money for the roads.

On top of the $215 million authorized last week, a bi-partisan group, yes a bi-partisan group of lawmakers is making steady progress at adding another $300-400 million to the road kitty.

"There's no reason why we can't do this on road funding," an optimistic Rep. Wayne Schmidt asserts.  The Traverse City Republican been laboring in the legislative vineyards since before the holidays to inch closer to the governor's $1.3 billion figure.

He's been inching there with fellow vineyard worker Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Macomb County) who is as equally sure that they can do this.

Here's the inside skinny on the "targets."

SOS Ms. Johnson currently collects $20 million from the state to administer the car registration system.  Lawmakers are looking at swiping that from her for the roads.

For years going all the way back to the Engler administration they have talked about upping the tax on diesel fuel which impacts truckers and all you big shooters driving those expensive foreign cars.  

Ms. Lane thinks the talk this time may turn into action because of the attitude change out there as drivers play dodge'em cars with pot holes.

"It's really come down to are the roads safe to drive on anymore?"

Truckers are also in-line for a possible reduction in weight limits which currently are among the lowest in the nation much to the chagrin of drivers who cuss at the big rigs for wrecking the roads.

Last time they tried this in 1997, truckers wiggled out of it by agreeing to be higher truck registration fees.  This time might be different but even the road builders, who benefit the most from more road revenue. are not so sure.

"I don't know if we'd be agreeable to lowering the weights," argues Lance Benomeni from the road lobby, "but if we need to pay a little bit more in fees and fines, we're hoping to negotiate and talk with leadership about those issues."

So you can plainly see it's not soup yet, but they are getting there.  Next will be getting the votes to pass it.

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