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'If We Are Filling Potholes At Expense Of The Poor' Lawmaker Says He Can't Support Road Funding Bills

LANSING (WWJ/AP) - "This was not a banner day for Michigan's children and families who were beat up in both the House and Senate," said Michigan League for Public Policy Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill in a statement.

Holcomb-Merrill released the statement shortly after the the House voted to eliminate the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Senate's approval of a package of bills allowing agencies to deny adoptive and foster placements based on religious beliefs.

"In short, the package burdens the poor, it punishes innovation while condoning complacency in the marketplace and ultimately we are robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Democrat Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo, referring the elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

"Ultimately, if we are filling potholes at the expense of the poor - if we are working hard to burden electronic and and while not asking the heaviest trucks to pay their fair share," said Hoadley. "This is not a package that I can support."

That reaction from a lawmaker after the Michigan House  approved a plan to shift hundreds of millions of dollars from the state's general fund and make other changes aimed at putting nearly $1.2 billion a year toward repairing the state's roads.

Grand Rapids Democrat Brandon Dillon voted against the whole package of bills, but was especially upset by the vote to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit.

"The rest of this package is frankly silly, offensive and irresponsible - but this is plain mean," said Dillon. "This tells people in our society - that are working hard - barely able to make ends meet that the few dollars that they get at the end of the year when they do their tax refunds is welfare; that's offensive."

Along with many other changes, the 12-bill package would earmark $442 million from the general fund for roads in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.That number would increase to $792 million in the 2019 fiscal year.

The plan would raise the diesel tax to 19 cents from 15 cents to match the gas tax and index both taxes to inflation. Registration fees would be raised by $30 on certain hybrid vehicles and by $100 on electric vehicles.

Three democrats crossed party lines to vote for a plan that would tax owners of electric or another fuel-efficient vehicles.

They did not call this a road fix, the House Republican Speaker Kevin Cotter said, "it is a significant step toward fixing the roads."

"I see today as an opportunity, a big step forward, to fix the roads," he said.

Cotter of Mt. Pleasant put the package together. "This is re-prioritization - this is an exercise in needs and wants - this is what families have done throughout the challenging times in Michigan and continue to do today."

"It's like putting a mortgage on auto-payment - you take care of the needs before the wants - that what this plan does it dedicates general fund money to our roads."

Governor Rick Snyder says the state needs $1.2 billion a year directed toward roads - the passage of these bills provides that figure over several years.

Most bills were approved primarily along party lines Wednesday in the Republican-controlled House.

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