Tide Changing On NITC In Senate?

MIRS News

Momentum within the Senate Republican caucus to building a second span across the Detroit River is growing, Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE said today, agreeing that between 10 and 15 members are possible yes votes for the bridge.

Several months ago, MIRS reported Richardville had one vote within the Senate Republican caucus for the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) being pursued by Gov. Rick SNYDER — his own. The reality may have been a little less dire than advertised, though, Richardville said. At the beginning of the debate he had “two” yes votes, 12 undecided and several “soft” no votes who were willing to talk.

In the last few weeks, the Senate Majority Leader said he feels attitudes shifting, particularly since he’s tied the bridge to a package that includes improving 167 various bridges across the state (See “Richardville Looks At New Bridge Strategy,” 8/25/11).

“They are more apt to listen, especially when you can tie it directly back to their districts and see how it’s just not a philosophical question, but it’s a question about jobs and investment,” he said.

The statements were made after Richardville’s press conference on his caucus’ fall 2011 agenda, which was billed as being about jobs.

Richardville singled out two proposals in particular — the NITC and the proposed elimination of the personal property tax (PPT) — as being job creators if enacted.

The Leader declined to pin a number of jobs that would be created if the Senate Republican agenda was moved, but did say the passage of the bridge package alone would result in thousands of jobs for people currently unemployed.

The elimination of the PPT would be an enticement for job providers to create even more, he said.

“The PPT is telling job providers that if you want to invest, we’re going to tax you for it. And we’re not just going to tax you this year, we’re going to tax you for years to come,” Richardville said.

Other items on the Senate GOP agenda include stopping health care benefits for retired lawmakers from the ages of 55 through 65 when a legislator qualifies for Medicaid. Richardville said, though, that he doesn’t want to loop all lawmakers into the bill, just those who have not qualified for the benefit by serving at least six years.

Asked specifically why he was interested in drawing an exception for people like himself, Richardville noted the legislature doesn’t go back retroactively and take away other public employees’ current benefits and he isn’t interested in being the test case.

As far as moving some type of legislation this year, Richardville predicted legislation not only would pass the Senate, but move to the Governor by the end of the year.

Many of the other seven priorities outlined by the Majority Leader were broad in nature. With only 22 session days until Thanksgiving, not everything is going to get done, but the hope is for substantial progress to be made.

“Cutting through red tape,” “increasing education options,” clarifying the medical marijuana law, banning partial birth abortion, protecting seniors, “restoring the American dream,” making “government more affordable” and giving auto insurance customers “more choices” were on the Senate GOP’s list.

Among those items under “Restoring the American Dream,” are increased penalties for those who engage in mortgage fraud.

On the Right to Teach issue, Richardville said again he supports collective bargaining but he doesn’t support forcing teachers to pay dues to an organization that spends much of its energy on campaigning as opposed to bargaining for better wages and conditions.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen WHITMER (D-East Lansing) delivered a message that job creation and economic renewal must be the overriding theme of the plan.

“The Republicans returned from their summer recess and immediately began work on a divisive and ill-conceived social agenda that again will do nothing to help get people back to work,” added Whitmer. “What we’ve seen in nine short months of Republican control is increased unemployment, increased child poverty, increased taxes on seniors and workers and increased class sizes across the state. Those are social issues too and I’d suggest they start addressing those first.”