LANSING, Mich. - Advocates for public transit are sounding the alarm about the Michigan House budget.
The budget proposal would trim $36 million from public-transit programs and related services, in order to preserve funding for road repairs and lower gas taxes. The cuts include 70% of the funding for senior "dial-a-ride" shuttle vans, which could lead to 350,000 fewer trips per year.
Megan Owens, executive director of the nonprofit community group Transportation Riders United, or TRU, said the cuts would hit seniors, people with disabilities and lower-income families hardest. "The budget that they passed last week would dramatically cut back on many of those services, leaving possibly tens of thousands of people struggling to get where they need to go, just because they don't personally drive," she said. "So, we're very concerned about those cuts."
The budget proposal also eliminates funding for a van-pool program designed to reduce congestion, cuts funds to local bus agencies and reduces state funding for new buses. Republican House leaders have said they want to dedicate existing gas taxes solely to road projects. That's a change from current practice that diverts some of the fuel-tax money to the General Fund to help pay for things such as education and law enforcement.
Owens said she supports Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proposal to raise the gas tax by 45 cents a gallon, which would raise $2.5 billion a year solely for transportation. "It would not only fund all of the road repairs that are needed," she said, "but also provide an additional 3% of that funding for public transit."
If the budget passes out of the House Appropriations Committee, it will need a majority vote in the full House. Then, negotiations will begin to reconcile it with the Senate's version and the governor's demands. The budget bill, House Bill 4246, is online at legislature.mi.gov.