Is This The Year Of The ‘Grand Bargain?'

Editors' Notes: MIRS asked a panel of political pundits a handful of questions.

Gov. Gretchen WHITMER hasn't suggested it. Senate Majority Leader Mike SHIRKEY (R-Clarklake) told reporters he doesn't envision it. But currently the elephant in the room is the potential pairing of Michigan's two biggest issues, crumbling roads and skyrocketing auto insurance costs. To many, the prospect of a "Grand Bargain" in which solutions to both are intertwined seems irresistible. Why not? Don't big time problems call for big time trade-offs? Or are the complexities of both issues so daunting that combining them would only make solutions more difficult to find? Is the idea of such a "Grand Bargain" visionary or a mirage? MIRS asked a panel of political pundits that question and a handful of other questions, as well.

Q. Is a "Grand Bargain," linking the road funding issue to the no-fault auto insurance issue, likely or unlikely to materialize?

According to T.J. BUCHOLZ, of Vanguard Public Affairs, it's hard to imagine the two issues not being linked at some level. "First, using the phrase 'Grand Bargain' when lawmakers miraculously agree to doing their jobs drives me crazy," Bucholz said. "It's not a 'Grand Bargain' to find a comprehensive solution when there's divided government. It's called 'doing the job voters sent you to Lansing to accomplish for them. "That being said, I certainly believe there will be some tie-bar between what the Governor wants to accomplish and what Mike Shirkey wants to solve on behalf of Republicans," Bucholz continued. "I think it's likely that will be no-fault insurance, especially when Shirkey brought up no-fault insurance at the same time when the Governor's budget was still hanging in the air over Lansing like words in a cartoon balloon."

Q. Did Gov. Whitmer make a mistake by not including the idea forwarded by House Speaker Chatfield of fully diverting the sales tax collected at the pump to road funding as part of her budget proposal?

Bucholz said, "No," the Governor did not make a mistake on this one.

Q. Is it inevitable that Michigan’s gas tax will be increased as part of the road funding "solution?" If so, by how much will it be increased?

"Michiganders need to prepare themselves for a gas tax hike of some amount," Bucholz said. "That being said, it’s likely not going to be 45 cents. Governor Whitmer, as she promised on the campaign trail, offered a comprehensive solution to fixing the damn roads and by all accounts 45 cents is a simple fix that Republicans could agree to with a simple signature. While Republicans and even some Democrats might disagree with it at this point, she's in the process of negotiating and likely knows she will have to make a deal somewhere in the middle. A quarter (25 cents) seems like a round number -- I would bet on that amount being agreed to, along with some increased taxes on small businesses, fees on heavy trucks, and no-fault auto insurance savings being tied in."

Q. Is the "S-corps" (pass through entities) tax hike portion of the Governor’s budget plan DOA in the legislature?

Bucholz said it’s dead, unless negotiations revive it. "At the moment, it's DOA for the House for sure, but again, negotiation is the name of the game with Governor Whitmer in 2019," Bucholz said. "When you look at this proposal, it’s pretty much a reversal of Governor Snyder’s tax break for corporations passed in his first term. In this climate we are engaged in, the budget is like a Christmas tree and every player involved will have to hang an ornament or two on it before they have a Merry Christmas."

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