Snyder wants fees hike for cleanup before leaving office
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday that his top remaining legislative priorities include pushing through trash and water fee increases to pay for environmental cleanup, infrastructure and recycling needs — proposals that a top lawmaker said continue to concern many Republicans.
The term-limited governor, who met with GOP lawmakers who control the Legislature, said he expects a “busy” lame-duck session — the post-election period before new lawmakers and, in this case, a Democratic governor takes over in January. Republican Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, meanwhile, signaled his plans to scale back recently enacted laws that will raise the minimum wage and require employers to provide earned sick leave — moves that Democrats said would thwart the intent of voters.
At the top of Snyder’s list is raising the landfill dumping fee and imposing a new state fee on water customers. Two key business groups got behind the proposals in the summer, but they could be difficult to pass in the Legislature.
“A lot of folks in my caucus that were opposed are still opposed,” Meekhof said. “It looks not very likely, but it is lame duck.”
He listed as a priority Senate-passed auto insurance bills that would make changes such as letting older drivers avoid paying most of a mandatory fee that covers unlimited medical benefits. And he said he wants to make the minimum wage and sick time laws, which began as ballot initiatives and were adopted by lawmakers in September to make it easier to change them, “more acceptable to the business community.”
He cited concerns that workers will be able to use a sick day without giving enough warning to their employer. The restaurant lobby is opposed to a provision in the wage measure that will increase the minimum for tipped employees until it reaches the minimum for all other workers in 2024.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich said Democrats will oppose any “shenanigans” to water down the laws, saying the public supports a higher minimum wage and mandatory sick days. He pointed to this week’s election, when Gretchen Whitmer was elected governor and Democrats took other top offices while cutting into GOP legislative majorities.
“I’m hopeful that they sort of read the tea leaves and realize that that’s a mistake to do, and we’ll hold them accountable for it if they do,” Ananich said.
If Snyder’s fee proposals are approved, the additional revenue would be used to clean up contaminated sites, address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — that have tainted drinking water supplies, boost asbestos removal and provide recycling grants. The “tipping” fee would replace the Clean Michigan Initiative, a 20-year-old voter-approved bond issue that is drying up.
Snyder has said the landfill fee would cost households no more than about $4 a year, while the water fee would be capped at no more than $20 annually per household and $400 per business.
He said he also wants to enact a supplemental spending bill, declining to elaborate except to say he could seek to spend more on the PFAS contamination. He did not mention recently enacted laws to raise the minimum wage and require earned sick leave, which business organizations want to scale back.
“I’ve always had a list,” Snyder said. “So at this point, I’m waiting to see what their priorities are, and let’s merge them together to see what we can accomplish.”
Another legislative issue that could come up before year’s end might be the implementation of an agreement between Snyder’s administration and Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge to replace twin 65-year-old crude oil pipes that critics have long described as an environmental disaster waiting to happen in a crucial Great Lakes channel. The plan calls for decommissioning the pipes after installing a new line in a tunnel to be drilled beneath the Straits of Mackinac.