LANSING (AP) — The Republican-led Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved a $58.2 billion spending plan that splits from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proposal on big-ticket priorities such as roads and school funding.
The voting sets the stage for further discussions as GOP leaders and the Democratic governor work to enact a budget for the fiscal year that starts in October. Lawmakers and the administration will get updated revenue estimates Friday, and the Republican-controlled House could pass its own plan in coming weeks.
As expected, the Senate plan does not include Whitmer's proposed $917 million initial boost in road and bridge spending as part of a 45 cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase to raise $2.5 billion — 30 cents of which would be phased in during the 2019-20 budget year. GOP senators instead voted 22-16, along party lines, to speed up the transfer of $132 million in general funds to the $5 billion transportation budget under 2015 road-funding laws.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, a Midland Republican, said he supports "getting us closer to the $2.5 billion, but until we actually have those revenues, I think we have to move forward with a real budget with real revenue. And that is exactly what the Senate has proposed."
State lawmaker charged with seeking bribe from union
LANSING (AP) — A Michigan lawmaker has been charged with seeking a bribe from a labor union in exchange for favorable votes on a wage issue after investigators obtained text messages that said campaign cash would be needed to overcome pressure from Republican leaders.
Republican Rep. Larry Inman was indicted Tuesday on charges of attempted extortion, soliciting a bribe and lying to the FBI. The retired banker is serving his third term in the House after decades as a local elected official in the Traverse City area.
Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield said he has asked Inman to resign from office.
The indictment by a federal grand jury reveals text messages sent last year by Inman to two people affiliated with the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, a group that had supported him. He urged them to round up campaign contributions from other unions to win the votes of lawmakers who were under pressure from Republican leaders to repeal a wage law.
Mike Jackson, executive secretary-treasurer of the carpenters union, said he's glad that Inman "is being brought to justice."
Last fall, Inman defeated a Democratic challenger by less than 1 percentage point.
Michigan unemployment rate edges up in April
LANSING (AP) — Michigan's unemployment rate increased slightly to 4.1 percent in April after six consecutive months of remaining unchanged.
Figures released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show the state's seasonally adjusted jobless rate was half of a percentage point higher than last month's national unemployment rate of 3.6.
In April 2018, Michigan's jobless rate was 4.3 percent.
Total employment grew by 7,000 during the month while the number of jobless workers increased by 4,000. The agency says the manufacturing sector saw the most pronounced monthly decline in jobs at 3,000.
Director Jason Palmer of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives said total employment gains so far this year have averaged 9,800 per month and payroll jobs rose in April for a seventh consecutive month.
Whitmer bans vessel anchor drops in Straits of Mackinac
LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is requiring large vessel operators to verify they're not dragging their anchors on the bottomlands when passing through the Straits of Mackinac.
Whitmer instructed the state Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday to file an emergency rule imposing the requirement for ships in the waterway linking lakes Huron and Michigan. It's similar to an order that former Gov. Rick Snyder issued last year after a tugboat anchor ruptured two electric cables and dented twin oil pipelines stretched across the lakebed.
Whitmer's move came as U.S. Sen. Gary Peters' office released underwater video taken last year showing what appears to be damage to Enbridge's Line 5 oil pipes from the anchor strike. Whitmer has delayed action on a deal reached by Snyder and Enbridge last fall to replace the Line 5 pipes with another that would run through a tunnel beneath the lake bottomlands.
Vandals shatter more than 200 windows at former outlet mall
MONROE TWP. (AP) — Authorities said vandals shattered more than 200 windows at largely vacant shopping center in southeastern Michigan.
WDIV-TV reported the windows were broken about two weeks ago at the former Horizon Outlet Center in Monroe Township, located just off I-75 about 35 miles southwest of Detroit.
Dwight Werner owns Monroe Martial Arts, which is located at the center. He said he spent more than a week cleaning up the mess and boarding up windows.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is seeking to identify and speak with two people seen on video at the center around the time some windows were broken.
Authorities said drywall and toilets also were destroyed inside the center. Damage is estimated at between $70,000 and $100,000.