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Governor rejects proposal that would assist rural counties

HOUGHTON — A House bill that would have doubled the time frame for property financing from 15 to 30 years for county road commissions was vetoed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Dec. 18.

A Dec. 19 press release from the Michigan House Republicans stated that State Representatives Greg Markkanen and Beau LaFave, who co-sponsored the bill, HB 4120, criticized “another attempt to by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to shortchange rural areas with her veto of a proposal — which she originally supported — creating flexibility for critical building updates.” Democratic Representative Sara Cambency, Marquette, co-sponsored the bipartisan bill.

Whitmer, in a letter to the House, dated Dec. 18, stated her reasons for returning the bill back to the House without her approval:

“HB 4120 would have allowed certain county road commissions to enter into a 30-year installment contract instead of the current maximum 15 years,” she wrote. “That policy change would provide greater financial flexibility to counties when it comes to building and maintaining roads. Nevertheless, the bill deprives larger counties — those with over 100,000 in population — of access to this tool. I fail to see a reasonable justification for this disparity.”

LaFave, of Iron Mountain, stated that the governor, whom he referred to as “Whiplash Whitmer” in the release, had originally promised a signature for the proposal, then reneged on the promise.

As the release states, however, Whitmer originally supported the bi-partisan-supported bill, the original bill she had promised to sign was not the bill that was sent to her desk for a signature.

The bill passed the House, then was sent to the Senate, where amendments were written into the bill. Those amendments were the grounds on which Whitmer vetoed the bill. The Senate’s amendment, in Chapter IV, Sec. 10, article 5, added an inclusion which reads:

“A county road commission for a county with a population of less than 100,000 may enter into a contract or agreement for the purchase of real or personal property for public purposes, to be for in installments over a period not to exceed 30 years or the useful life of the property acquired, whichever is less.”

Whitmer, in a Dec. 18 press release stated that as amended, the limits the timeframe to counties with a population of 100,000 or less, which, she stated, unfairly discriminates against larger counties.

“I believe that all counties across Michigan deserve access to the same contracts for their road commissioners,” she stated in her release. “That is why I am eager to work with the Legislature to pass a bill that includes all 83 of Michigan’s counties so we can continue to improve infrastructure all across the state.”

LaFave stated in the Republican House release that much effort was spent working with the Governor’s Office to understand the issue and why the change was needed, but that she “either doesn’t understand measures that work for the Upper Peninsula, or at best, simply refuses to support U.P communities and people, at worst.”

Whitmer had supported the bill until the Senate inserted the amendment limiting the bill’s changes to counties with fewer than 100,000 residents. There is no available written record of the Senate’s reasons for the amendment.

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