August 4, 2023 | This Week in Government: New Directive Makes to Make State Permitting More EfficientAugust 4, 2023
Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.
New Directive Makes to Make State Permitting More Efficient
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive on Thursday to speed up the process of state permitting.
Executive Directive 2023-04 directs state departments and agencies to assess what permits and licenses they issue and the statutory authorities governing application fees and response times.
The departments will then report that information to the governor, who will establish recommended times for efficiently processing each type of permit or license. When state departments exceed the recommended time frame, they will be required to waive or refund the full application fee. The agencies also will be required to identify permits that can be eliminated.
“Permitting delays can increase costs and uncertainty for communities and businesses,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Those applying for a state permit must know how long the process will take and that when the state commits to a deadline, we will meet it.”
The 2023-24 fiscal year budget, which Whitmer signed earlier this week, also includes $6.6 million to add resources to cut down permitting wait times and improve the permitting process.
“We must work together to grow Michigan’s economy and make it easier to do business, create jobs and get things done,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said in a statement. “Executive Directive 2023-24 will help make our permitting process more efficient and effective while balancing the important need to protect clean air, land and water for every Michigander.”
Members of the business community across the state praised the directive as a way to support investments.
“Each week a permit is delayed is anticipated to increase the cost of a project by at least 1%,” said a statement from Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. “Increasing project certainty and reducing delays through an efficient permitting process will support critical investments and improve community vibrancy, quality of life and the attraction in West Michigan.”
The current permitting process is hurting business in Michigan, said Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
“Speed to market is a critical business element. A barrier to business expansion and attraction in Michigan is cumbersome and overlapping regulatory processes,” he said in a statement. “The Chamber supports a serious examination – and changes – to regulator processes to foster job creation and economic growth.”
Last year, Whitmer signed an executive directive to streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects of $50 million or more. The directive is intended to build upon the governor’s work to cut down on permitting delays to grow the state’s economy, a press release from her office said.
Michigan Interactions Played Major Role in Trump Election Probe Indictment
Various Michigan political operatives were mentioned throughout the latest indictment of former President Donald Trump related to his push to influence the outcome and overturn the 2020 election results following his loss to current President Joe Biden.
The documents unsealed Tuesday evening in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia show that Michigan had a major role in his scheme to propagate three conspiracies around the election administration and its results, which federal prosecutors said was all in the aim to keep him in power and defraud the nation in the process.
Several Michigan Democrats, including Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, addressed the charges in statements Tuesday night.
The state’s Republican Party, however, was quiet about the developments, opting instead to highlight its third keynote speaker at its upcoming off-election year gathering on Mackinac Island.
Some did issue comments on the matter, including the party’s former co-chair, who is also facing criminal charges in her own efforts to push Trump’s false election claims in Michigan.
Trump was formally charged Tuesday on four counts of conspiracy to defraud the nation, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights – a Civil War-era law as it relates to allegations that sought to intimidate votes away from the basic right to cast a ballot in an election.
The indictment in USA v. Trump (USDOC Docket No. 23-00257) alleges that Trump was determined to remain in power, so for two months following the election, he spread lies that there had been “outcome-determinative fraud in the election,” and he was the rightful winner.
“These claims were false, and the defendant knew that they were false,” the indictment states in its opening paragraphs. “But the defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.”
Trump falsely claimed almost 150,000 fraudulent votes materialized in Detroit after midnight on Election Day to assure Biden’s victory in Michigan. However, there was no evidence that anything untoward occurred. Furthermore, the vote count in Detroit for Biden and Trump was not appreciably different than the 2016 tally in the city for Hillary Clinton and Trump. The big change between 2016 and 2020 was Trump lost suburban areas by far more in 2020 to Biden than he did to Clinton in 2016. Even in Macomb County, Trump saw slippage, winning by less in 2020 than he did in 2016.
Federal prosecutors went on to write that Trump had a right to speak publicly about the election and even claim, albeit falsely, that there had been fraud that swayed the election and that he won. He was also entitled to formally challenge the results through lawful and appropriate means, the indictment notes, such as through recounts, audits, and lawsuits challenging election procedures.
“Indeed, in many cases, the defendant did pursue these methods of contesting the election results. His efforts to change the outcome in any state through (those means) were uniformly unsuccessful,” prosecutors wrote. “Shortly after Election Day, the defendant also pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results.”
That resulted in three alleged conspiracies manufactured by Trump: one to defraud the U.S. to impair the functions of government by sowing distrust around the nation’s past and future elections, one to corruptly obstruct the electoral certification proceedings on January 6, 2021, and a conspiracy against the peoples’ right to vote.
“Each of these conspiracies – which built on widespread mistrust the defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud – targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election,” the indictment states.
The document then details the manner and means by which Trump enacted the conspiracies, noting efforts and co-conspirators organizing fraudulent slates of electors in seven states, including Michigan. The attempt was to mimic the legitimate procedures that took place by duly authorized electors protected under the U.S. Constitution, as well as federal and state laws.
That included having Trump electors meet on the day appointed by federal law on which the legitimate Biden electors met and cast their votes, resulting in the fraudulent slate to cast their votes to certify the election in favor of Trump and signing certificates that falsely misrepresented their status as legitimate electors.
The mention of fraudulent electors in the indictment draws the clearest line to date linking Michigan’s alleged false GOP electors to the scheme, several of whom have since been charged in state court by the Department of Attorney General for their part in the scheme – including former MIGOP Chair Meshawn Maddock, Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden, and several others.
At least one of the alleged false electors charged recently by Attorney General Dana Nessel‘s office claimed she was tricked into doing so, which the indictment against Trump filed Tuesday appears to acknowledge.
“Some fraudulent electors were tricked into participating based on the understanding that their votes would be used only if the defendant succeeded in outcome-determinative lawsuits within their state, which the defendant never did,” the indictment states. “(Trump) and co-conspirators then caused these fraudulent electors to transmit their false certificates to the vice president and other government officials to be counted at the proceeding on January 6.”
The indictment does not name Maddock or Berden as co-conspirators. However, the co-conspirators remained unnamed in the indictment.
News reports have surmised that five of the six unnamed co-conspirators likely include former New York Mayor turned Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani, attorneys John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and Kenneth Chesebro, and former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, who was also on a short list of people Trump hoped to install as acting-U.S. attorney general in the wake of the election.
Michigan players mentioned in the indictment, however, include former Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and former House Speaker Lee Chatfield, with the indictment noting that they were invited to a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office. They are not accused of any wrongdoing.
“In the meeting, the defendant raised his false claim, among others, of an illegitimate vote dump in Detroit. In response, (Shirkey) told (Trump) that he had lost Michigan not because of fraud, but because the defendant had underperformed with certain voter populations in the state,” prosecutors wrote. “Upon leaving their meeting, (Chatfield) and (Shirkey) issued a statement reiterating this.”
The statement also mentioned that the two legislative leaders had not been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election and that they would follow the normal process of certifying the election as prescribed by law.
Trump had also asked then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr about the alleged vote dump claim in Michigan, but Barr told him that there was no indication of fraud in Detroit.
“Despite this, the defendant made a knowingly false statement that in Michigan, ‘at 6:31 a.m., a vote dump of 149,772 votes came in unexpectedly,’” the indictment said of Trump’s theory by quoting the former president. “‘We were winning by a lot. That batch was received in horror. Nobody knew anything about it … it’s corrupt. Detroit is corrupt. I have a lot of friends in Detroit. They know it. But Detroit is totally corrupt.’”
The indictment then notes one of the co-conspirators sent a text message to Chatfield to again reiterate the debunked claim of fraud and also asked him to assist in “reversing the ascertainment of the legitimate Biden electors, stating, ‘looks like Georgia may well hold some factual hearings and change the certification number (under the Constitution).
“‘As (another co-conspirator) explained, they don’t just have the right to do it but the obligation … help me get this done in Michigan,’” the indictment says of the text message.
The same occurred in text messages to Shirkey.
“So I need you to pass a joint resolution from the Michigan Legislature that states that, ‘the election is in dispute, there’s an ongoing investigation by the Legislature, and the electors sent by [Gov. Gretchen Whitmer] are not the official electors of the state of Michigan’ and do not fall within the Safe Harbor deadline of Dec. 8 under Michigan law,” the text message in question is alleged to have said.
The indictment does not say who sent that text.
Both Chatfield and Shirkey would, in the days that followed, stand firm in their objection to doing as Trump asked and stated they would not decertify legitimate election results or electors in Michigan.
Still, Trump is alleged to have knowingly falsely continued to call Detroit’s and Michigan’s election results into doubt to keep his grip on power, prosecutors said.
Benson, who had also stood firm against any insinuation that Michigan’s election processes in 2020 were marred by fraud, reasserted her belief that the state’s elections were safe and accurate and that it was Trump, in turn, who perpetuated a continuous string of fraudulent statements and falsehoods.
“Following the election, an unprecedented, nationally coordinated attempt to overturn those results and spread false conspiracies – through meritless lawsuits, sham legislative hearings, illegal access to voting machines, and attempts to intervene with the counting and certification of legal votes – directly led to violent attacks aimed at election officials, members of law enforcement, Congress, and many others,” Benson said in her Tuesday evening statement. “Today’s charges against several individuals involved in these schemes are an important step towards legal accountability and consequences for those involved in this effort.”
The secretary of state also said she was “grateful for the work of those whose meticulous, professional, fact-based investigations led to these indictments.”
“I look forward to seeing the judicial process and other investigations proceed while all of us here in Michigan and nationwide, embrace our collective responsibility to speak the truth, ensure voter confidence in our elections, and work to protect and defend every voice and every vote,” Benson added.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) said in a statement that America is “and must always be a nation of laws and rules that apply to all of us, from the least powerful to the most powerful.
“A former president using the power of his office to lie and attempt to thwart the will of American voters is an American tragedy – one that led to the violence of January 6, as so many of us experienced firsthand – and one that still poisons our politics today,” Slotkin said. “President Trump will have the chance to prove his innocence before a jury of his peers. But for us to function as a country, those who would conspire to undo a lawful election must be held accountable.”
Although the Michigan Democratic Party also issued a statement on Trump’s new legal woes, the Michigan Republican Party offered no public statement on its website nor on its social media accounts related to the new indictment.
Nor did current Chair Kristina Karamo, who shared several posts related to Trump’s indictment in the election probe from others. The party did the same on its own social media pages sans statement.
The party did not respond to a request for comment on the matter from Gongwer News Service on Wednesday.
Maddock similarly shared several posts from others on the third indictment of Trump this year but also tweeted a short statement on the matter.
“Election Interference! This is a witch hunt. They are not after Trump they are after YOU. #DonaldJTrump,” Maddock wrote.
Fiscal Year 2023-24 Budget Signed With Two Vetoes
WYANDOTTE – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the $81.7 billion fiscal year 2023-24 budget on Monday, hailing investments in infrastructure, schools, and communities.
“This budget will lower costs, will deliver on issues that make a real difference in people’s lives and will help everyone and anyone make it here in Michigan,” Whitmer said of the budget, which her office has been hailing as key for her priority to “make it in Michigan.”
Whitmer highlighted several items in the budget, including $10.5 million dedicated to public safety; $56.4 million to fund Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies; $49.5 million to implement recommendations from the Racial Disparities Task Force; $50 million for the Housing and Community Development Program; and $20 million to establish an environmental justice contaminated site clean-up fund.
She also mentioned bringing the “rainy day fund” to nearly $2 billion, with the state depositing $100 million.
“We’re building on our growing economic momentum, bolstering the story that we are telling about Michigan,” Whitmer said. “We are a strong state with unique natural strength driven by a spirit of grit and innovation. We are going to be the ones to define the future of advanced manufacturing while continuing to diversify our economy and deliver great quality of life and a good cost of living.”
There were two line-item vetoes from the budget: $2 million for the Livingston County Catholic charities and $5 million for Detroit Water and Sewer.
The Public Act number for HB 4437, the budget bill, was not yet available at publishing time Monday.
Several state leaders joined Whitmer during the bill signing, including Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), Senate Appropriations chair, Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Township), House Appropriations chair, and the legislative leaders, House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) and Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids).
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, who was also in attendance, said this budget was one of the biggest team efforts state leaders embarked on, saying the budget is only as good as the people who participate in the process.
“Because this is the people’s budget, it isn’t ours, it isn’t the government’s, this belongs to every single person in Michigan,” he said. “From a first responder to a first-grade teacher to the first child in your family, we all will benefit. And we all play a role in making Michigan a better, stronger and more successful state because of the investment that we come together to make today.”
Anthony and Witwer spoke about the countless hours that the budget process requires. Witwer said the new Democratic House majority had to keep Michiganders safe and healthy as a key priority when drafting the budget.
“We’re providing $12 million to support county prosecutors working in high crime areas so they have the tools they need to help bring criminals justice and keep communities safe,” she said. “Our budget invests billions to clean up those contaminated sites to protect Michiganders from pollution.”
Witwer added that she was proud to say that this budget “does deliver,” helping with affordable housing, supporting small businesses, and expanding the behavioral health care workforce.
Anthony said that for many of them, it was 40 years in the making of having Democratic values “baked into” the budget.
“But the thing I’m most proud of in this budget is that it’s not a partisan one, that we took the time to focus on issues in every corner of the state, and that meant working alongside our Republican colleagues and independents across the state who … wanted to make sure that we get this right,” Anthony said.
In a statement after the bill signing, House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) called the budget “wasteful,” saying the Democrats drained the rest of the state’s $9 billion surplus and will require an income tax hike to pay for the budget.
“Michiganders want their hard-earned tax dollars invested to fix local roads, keep our neighborhoods and schools safe, and provide other essential public services, but Democrats are hiking taxes to go on a ridiculous spending spree while setting aside the people’s most urgent needs,” Hall said in a statement. “Democrats chose the partisan path to pick winners and losers — rewarding their political allies with pork projects and unsustainable programs. Meanwhile, our local roads and bridges will continue to crumble, our understaffed local police departments will struggle to protect our communities, and our students will keep falling behind. Michigan taxpayers will owe more to state coffers to pay for all the Democrats’ pork and pipe-dream programs.”
No-Fault Medical Fee No Longer Applies to Prior Crash Survivors
A split Michigan Supreme Court on Monday struck down the retroactive component to the 2019 no-fault auto insurance medical fee schedule that set limits on reimbursements in the system, with a 5-2 majority ruling it does not apply to those injured before its passage.
The high court’s majority in Andary v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company (MSC Docket No. 164772) upheld the previous ruling of the Court of Appeals that those changes do not apply to those injured and receiving benefits before the law’s effective date.
The court did not uphold the entire Court of Appeals opinion issued last year, as it also ruled the constitutional questions of the law could not be brought by the plaintiffs because they lacked standing.
PA 21 of 2019 and PA 22 of 2019 made sweeping changes to the state’s auto no-fault law. Among them were limiting reimbursement for family-provided attendant care to 56 hours per week and capping a health care provider’s reimbursement for services not covered by Medicare to 55% of the fees charged as of January 1, 2019. Advocates against the change praised the decision on Monday, calling it a great victory for the rights of catastrophic crash survivors.
“This decision marks the beginning of the end of this nightmare for more than 18,000 crash survivors and their loved ones,” said CPAN President Tim Hoste in a statement. “The Supreme Court has issued a strong affirmation that accident victims who were injured prior to the passage of the new law cannot have the rights and benefits they purchased through their auto insurance premiums stripped away by this legislation. This is an enormous victory for the rights of crash survivors, and we want to thank all the advocates who fought along with us to make this day a reality.”
While the ruling helps those who were injured before the law was passed, many of whom lost their care due to the now unlawful retroactive application of the reforms, the fee schedule still applies to anyone injured after June 11, 2019.
The defendant’s insurance company appealed the lower court’s decision to bring it before the high court. On Monday, the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, representing insurers across the state, said the ruling means Michigan drivers would lose out on billions as a result.
“The fact is, bipartisan reforms have lowered costs for millions of drivers and saved Michiganders more than $5 billion, making today’s court ruling a huge setback for Michigan’s 7.2 million drivers, small businesses and the state’s economy,” said Erin McDonough, executive director of the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, in a statement. “A medical fee schedule for auto insurance, similar to private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid has been a huge benefit to consumers because it reins in rampant overcharging by medical providers and brings fairness, common sense and transparency to the broken auto no-fault system.”
The plaintiffs in the case argued the new medical fee schedule passed through the 2019 reforms and its caps on care were a violation of the contract for those who had vested benefits, and the caps do not apply to those injured before the reforms went into effect.
The insurance company that is the defendant in the case argued that benefits are not vested at the time of the injury but rather when care is sought, and that applied regardless of when the injury took place. The Legislature has a right to not only regulate the insurance market but also the fee schedule, which includes a cap on fees, the defendants argued before the court.
In the majority’s opinion issued Monday, Welch wrote that there had been no statutory cap on reimbursable hours of prescribed attendant care that could be provided to a covered individual by family members, as opposed to a commercial provider – nor were there limits on reimbursement rates for providers beyond a base requirement that costs for service be categorized as reasonable or necessary.
The 2019 no-fault overhaul changed that significantly, and the case at hand primarily concerned whether the new limits applied to those who had personal injury protection policies and suffered injuries before the law’s biggest component took effect.
When looking at PIP benefits, Welch wrote that the policies have both statutory and contractual characteristics and that while the main plaintiffs were not the named insureds on the policies that covered them, it was undisputed that they were covered both by the policies’ terms and the auspices of the no-fault act.
They were thus entitled in a base way to receive the benefits of those policies. That said, Welch wrote that the court had previously declared that an injured employee’s right to benefits and an employer’s obligation to pay for an employee’s medical expenses under the Workers Disability Compensation Act was purely statutory in origin and could not be considered “vested rights” for the purposes of a constitutional Contracts Clause, Due Process Clause, or Takings Clause analysis.
The no-fault act differed from the WDCA in that it was a creature of statute that had to be enforced through an administrative commission and expressly puts the employer as the one with a statutory obligation to provide provision of reasonable medical services to one who is injured over the course of employment.
As such, workers’ compensation has little to do with whether an employer purchased private insurance to cover their liability in those circumstances. The no-fault act mandates that certain minimum benefits be provided in private policies, but that does not mean that the benefits available under a contractual policy are purely statutory like workers’ compensation.
Welch surmised under that framework that PIP benefits under a no-fault policy remaining biding post-injury as aligned with the injured party’s coverage of that previous policy unless clearly and retroactively invalidated by the Legislature.
When putting that question through a four-part test to see if the Legislature indeed meant for the law to apply on a retroactive basis, Welch said the first factor shows that the amendments were prospective on their face. That said, the Legislature was unclear as to which group of crash survivors the law applied – nor did the language suggest an intent to modify the contractual rights of an injured person with previously uncapped PIP benefits and family-provided attendant care vested prior to the amendments.
Welch added that the legal analysis of the majority found that the amendments note that any savings from those injured before the effective date who have no vested rights to benefits at the pre-amendment level must be passed on in filings after the effective date. However, Welch wrote that the law does not reflect a clear expression of the Legislature’s intent on whether that also applied retroactively.
While some weighed factors were less conclusive, others led Welch and the majority to conclude that insurance policies and the disputed portion of the no-fault acts that existed when the plaintiffs were injured controlled their overall entitlement to PIP benefits, not the amended 2019 no-fault law changes.
“Application of the 2019 amendments to individuals who had previously been injured and were already receiving PIP benefits would not ‘operate in furtherance of a remedy or mode of procedure,’ given that the amendments create new monetary caps on compensable non-Medicare services and a new hourly limitation on how much reimbursable attendant care can be provided by an injured individual’s family members,” Welch wrote. “Stated differently, despite being framed as limitations on what providers can charge and who can provide services, application of the amendments to Andary and Krueger would substantively reduce the monetary amount and type of benefits they have been receiving for medical services and care, which is a change in substance, not procedure.”
Viviano, in a partial concurrence and partial dissent joined mostly by Zahra, wrote that he would have held the amendments broadly applied to all future medical expenses and attendant care services regardless of when the injury occurred, stating that the provisions of the new law were clear on when those should apply as treatment or training rendered with a specific period in the future.
There was also no textual indication, Viviano wrote, that the Legislature meant to further limit those sections only to PIP benefits payable to crashes that occurred after the new law was passed and became statute. The law similarly did not suggest that the provision exclusively applies to attendant care rendered following crashes after the law’s effective date.
The law did, in Viviano’s view, provide strong textual indications that the reforms applied to the pre-effective date policies in question.
“The majority’s decision today thwarts the will of the Legislature by concluding that application of the statutory amendments would be retroactive as to pre-reform accidents,” Viviano wrote. “This is not so. The reforms broadly apply to all future medical expenses and attendant care services, regardless of when the injury occurred. This is plainly a prospective application. Worse still is the majority’s misreading of the text to conclude that the reforms do not, by their terms, apply to expenses arising out of pre-reform accidents. The language of the statutes makes no distinction based on when the accident occurred.”
Viviano added that the result of the majority’s “erroneous interpretation of the statute, aided by resort to vague and disputed concepts that seem only to serve as cover for fairness concerns,” impeded the Legislature’s “effort to address an important issue in our state.”
“As a result, the efforts of the Legislature and the governor to reduce costs and make insurance more affordable for all the residents of our state will not come to fruition for many decades. If courts cannot be trusted to faithfully interpret and apply the laws, especially those involving such significant and contested topics, then the democratic process is in peril.”
Zahra disagreed with Viviano only as it related to a handful of footnotes and declined to address the retroactivity framework outlined by another case cited by both the majority and dissent.
In a separate interview with Gongwer News Service, Hoste on Monday said CPAN was “very relieved” to see the entire fee schedule that has negatively affected crash survivors since its passage was overturned. He said those individuals would now, once again, get the benefits and treatments that they desperately need.
“The non-agency care caps coming off is also another very, very critical thing,” Hoste added.
As to the constitutional claims bit that the high court declined to address, Hoste said CPAN’s legal team was currently digging into the matter and how to address it from a legal standpoint in the future.
Since the Court of Appeals already tossed the retroactive application of the fee schedule when it ruled previously, which was upheld by the high court on Monday, and because the decision was not stayed when the bench heard the case this year, both the Legislature and the Department of Insurance and Financial Services were given some heads up or a head start to consider potential changes.
When asked how it was handling the administrative pieces, a DIFS spokesperson said that since the fee schedule was established statutorily, the department’s role would be to implement the law as written or as interpreted by the courts.
Related to rates, DIFS spokesperson Laura Hall said auto insurers must review the court decision to determine any impact on premiums, though they are required to continue to comply with mandated rate reductions under the law.
“As part of our regulatory oversight, we will continue to review insurers’ costs versus the premiums they receive to ensure consumers are charged fairly, using outside actuaries as a part of this oversight,” Hall said.
In a statement, DIFS Director Anita Fox said the agency would remain as it has been “committed to ensuring that Michiganders benefit from the cost savings under the law while ensuring continuity of care for those injured in auto accidents.”
“In any major piece of legislation, especially a bipartisan compromise like this, there may be questions that need to be resolved by the courts. Our role is to implement the law as written by the Legislature and interpreted by the courts,” Fox said. “We are currently reviewing the decision, and we will update any guidance as necessary when appropriate.”
Spending on State Highways to Start Falling in FY ’25
The State Transportation Commission adopted the draft for its 2024-2028 Five-Year Transportation Program on Thursday, planning to spend a little more than $15 billion on transportation and infrastructure projects. However, the funding may still not be enough to prevent a significant decline in road quality in the coming years.
The $15.6 billion plan using state and federal funds includes projects for biking, public transportation, rail, bridges, and roads. At least $10.9 billion will be used for the Highway Program, focusing on repairing and rebuilding MDOT roads and bridges. The Department of Transportation said $475 million from the $3.5 Rebuilding Michigan bond program will be used, but the funding is projected downwards from fiscal year 2024 to 2027 once the bonding money is gone after fiscal year 2025.
In the 2023-24 fiscal year that begins October 1, MDOT projects $2.57 billion in spending on its capital highway program. That will fall in the 2024-25 fiscal year to $2.46 billion, $2.36 billion in the 2025-26 fiscal year, and $2.22 billion in the 2027-28 fiscal year, with a slight increase in the 2027-28 fiscal year to $2.25 billion.
In the 2021-22 fiscal year, about 81% of state highways were in good or fair condition, MDOT said. That began falling, and MDOT projects the percentage of highways it owns in good or fair condition to sink to about 63% by 2026 and 46% by 2032.
MDOT has a goal of 85% of non-freeway pavement and 95% of freeway pavement in good or fair condition.
Additionally, $3.7 billion will be used for public transportation projects, including local buses, freight trains, and passenger rails. Finally, $989 million will be used for the aeronautics program and local, state, and federal aviation programs.
During the next five years, 1,244 lane miles are anticipated to be improved yearly. MDOT is shooting to replace and improve 291 lane miles per year, extend the life of 620 lane miles per year, resurface 33 miles of freeway and non-freeway roads per year, and repair or replace 121 bridges per year.
Additionally, revenue from the bond program and the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as well as increases in 2015 during the administration of former Governor Rick Snyder to the state gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees, have helped slow the pavement deterioration. However, MDOT said the funds are still not enough to meet pavement goals in future years or sustain roads in their current conditions.
MDOT was able to meet the average goal of 90% in good or fair conditions in 2007 but has failed to do so since.
In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed a 45-cent per gallon fuel tax increase to provide a big boost in funds for roads, but it encountered massive opposition and saw no movement. Instead, she turned to the State Transportation Commission‘s bonding authority, which enabled MDOT to accelerate its work plan and perform more work sooner than its previous five-year plans had projected.
However, that move did not put any additional money into local roads controlled by county road commissions, counties, cities or villages. Instead, they have seen a relatively small amount of the state’s $9 billion surplus directed to a few targeted bridge and road projects.
Whitmer’s commission to propose ideas on growing the state’s population also is charged with proposing a solution to insufficient road revenues.
For the highways, MDOT is looking to rebuild the Bay Region of I-475 in Flint from 2026-28. A potential lane reduction for enhanced bridges to improve connectivity in the community is included in the plan. From 2024-25, MDOT is also looking to rebuild I-96 between Bliss Road and M-66, with upgrades addressing higher rainfall events and reducing the potential of flooding over the road.
The plan also provides updates to major highway projects, saying it expects the I-94 modernization project rebuilding seven miles from east of the I-96/I-94 interchange to east of Connor Avenue in Detroit to be completed by 2053. The I-75 modernization project in Oakland County that is rebuilding 18 miles of urban and rural freeway is expected to be finished much sooner, by 2025.
MDOT received a $600,000 COVID-19 research grant in 2021 for two projects, with the first project helping secure wheelchairs on buses without the need for the driver to manually secure the wheelchair.
Port Huron, Saginaw, and Jackson agencies have installed and now use the automated wheelchair securements, and Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express expects to install them in 2023.
A request for proposals is expected for late 2023 that would help MDOT implement a Mobility as a Service platform that would consolidate public transport, car, bike-sharing and/or taxi into a single mobility platform. This service is anticipated to be available sometime in 2025.
Funding is also expected to help with the installation of eight new passenger boarding bridges for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Public input on the five-year transportation program is available from Aug. 7 to Sept. 8 on MDOT’s website.
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