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Welcome to SEMCOG's Think Regional/Act Local blog! SEMCOG is the only organization in Southeast Michigan that brings together all governments to solve regional challenges and enhance the quality of life for the seven-county regions 4.7 million residents. With this regional perspective in mind, we work with member local governments to sustain our regions reputation as a great place to work, play, and do business.

 

Our panel of SEMCOG staff bloggers will post daily to this blog, discussing SEMCOG's data, federal and state legislative issues, and environmental and fiscal sustainability best practices for local governments all with the goal of creating a successful future for the region.

 

 

Think Regional/Act Local

A Big IF

(Legislation, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

December 22, 2014 - I am conflicted. I got a call from one of SEMCOG’s officers last Thursday afternoon when it became apparent that there would not be a legislative solution to increase transportation dollars. He asked me, “So Carmine, what do you think of the deal?” I told him that I was disappointed (didn’t quite use those words) and I still am. As I was driving home that night, I continued to think about the outcome.   

 

You know perspective is everything. What are we choosing between? At first, we thought we were choosing between the House-passed bill (bad) and the-Senate passed bill (good) – and for most of the week, it appeared that we were. As days went on and time grew short, the issue changed and we found ourselves having to choose between the Senate-passed bill (good) and no bill at all (bad). No bill at all meant no chance of additional revenue for transportation, but it meant that schools and local government did not suffer any loss of funding either. There was also speculation on the future of any other transportation funding bill given the new legislature coming in after the first of the year.

 

What did we get? Well, we didn’t get the House-passed bill (good), we didn’t get the Senate-passed bill (too bad), but we got most of the things in the Senate-passed bill if and only if the people vote to increase the sales tax by a penny on May 5 (good and/or bad?). I think the outcome was better than nothing, but might still result in nothing depending on how the people vote. We could see more money and see it faster than either of the initial bills, or we could get nothing – that’s the game now…all or nothing. The legislature did not solve the problem, they merely bought a vowel, didn’t solve the puzzle, but gave the public the opportunity to solve the problem.

 

It may still work. We may still end up with the additional revenue that will help us repair our crumbling roads and bridges and increase our transit services. What I find most troubling is that there was never any discussion about the vision of the legislature, never any discussion about wanting to have good roads as opposed to bad roads. It was all about taxes. In this regard, I think they missed badly.

 

Whatever your feelings, it is over. So, it is time to go back to work and make the most of the opportunity we have. There is much to do. So, what do you think of the deal? For me, it still doesn’t feel good.

 

 

 
Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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So Close

(Legislation, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

December 16, 2014 - Last week, SEMCOG held a news conference to have local elected officials tell members of the state legislature how they felt about both the House-passed and the Senate-passed transportation funding legislation. It should not be a surprise that local government leaders favor the Senate-passed version of the bill. Why?  

  • The Senate-passed bill raises more dollars.
  • The Senate-passed bill raises more dollars in a shorter period of time.
  • The Senate-passed bill raises new dollars and does not take from any other state programs.
  • The Senate-passed bill distributes the dollars through the existing Act 51 formula, so for the first time since 1987, public transit will see an increase in state funding.

Duggan

 

Mayor Mike Duggan, County Executives Mark Hackel and Bob Ficano, Mayor Bryan Barnett from Rochester Hills, Supervisor Dan O’Leary of Washington Township, and Paul Hillegonds, Chair of the RTA were among the speakers who made the above points.

 

The House-passed bill does none of the above; it raises fewer dollars, takes more time, and takes money away from schools and government revenue sharing and public transit.

 

So where are we today?

 

The Senate rejected the House plan and sent it to a Conference Committee of the House and Senate. At this stage, the issue is being debated behind closed doors by the legislative leadership and the Governor. If they can reach a solution, that plan would go to the Conference Committee which could choose to just rubberstamp the deal and send it on to both the House and Senate to approve in their full sessions. At that point, the Conference Committee report cannot be amended and must be voted on as “yes” or “no.” If it passes in both chambers, it goes to the Governor for his signature. If it does not pass in both chambers, the issue of new funding would die and new legislation would have to be introduced again in 2015.

 

So, we are now pretty much at the mercy of whatever “deal” can be made between the Governor and Senate and House leadership. However, you can still influence the final agreement. Phone calls and emails this week to your legislator will keep the pressure on them to reach a deal that is good for us all.

 

We are close. Call and tell your legislator to pass the Senate-passed bill. Do it today!

 

 

 
Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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Pass the Senate version

(Legislation, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

December 8, 2014 - The old saying is that you should be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. Something like that happened last week. Instead of getting one bill raising transportation revenue, we got two bills. The Senate-passed bill increases transportation funding by up to $1.5 billion within a four-year period. It does this by raising all new revenue. This bill provides enough funding to improve roads over the next few years. You will see a noticeable improvement in condition two or three years after it is enacted.

 

The House, rather than just agree with the Senate and move on to something else, passed a substitute bill that provides additional transportation funding, but it does so by taking it from other programs. It raises no new revenue. Instead, it diverts money from the general fund, schools, and local government operations and sends it to improve our roads. It could generate as much as $1.4 billion a year more to improve roads, but it will take eight years before the full amount is realized! That is an average increase of less than $200 million per year. Sorry, things will be getting much worse before they get better under this funding package.

 

Oh, one more thing. The Senate-passed bill provides funding for public transit through the agreed upon funding. It would be the first time since 1987 that transit has seen any increase in state funding. The House-passed bill? It decreases funding for transit.

 

The solution is easy. Call your elected officials; ask to speak directly to the legislator and tell them to pass the Senate-approved version of the funding package today. It provides adequate funding to improve our roads, additional funding for transit, and does so without taking money away from schools or local government or anything else. We are so close to having better roads and transit. Do it today.

 

 

 
Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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