In a potential conference committee, legislative leaders could try to resolve differences between the Senate road plan, which would eventually produce $822 million a year from a phased-in gas tax increase, and the $1.0-billion House plan, which relies on only about $118 million from tax increases.
The Senate's plan did include a mechanism for rolling back the state's income tax if revenue growth is high enough.
But it didn't include House-supported proposals to do away with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and to specifically shift funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) to roads.
Those ideas were backed by many conservative members of the House Republican caucus. Without them and with the gas tax hike, the feeling among a variety of sources in Lansing today was that it would be difficult to get the votes to pass the Senate plan.
"It will end up in conference committee," predicted Rep. Peter PETTALIA (R-Presque Isle), the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Others said it was too early to make that prediction.
It's possible, they argued, that changes could be made to the Senate proposal that could draw enough Democratic votes to get the plan through the House.
In the Senate, however, only one of the 11 Democrats voted for the gas tax increase bill.
And although the Republicans have 27 of the 38 seats, it still took a tie-breaking vote from Lt. Gov. Brian CALLEY to get the gas tax increase through.
In the House, the margins are much tighter with Republicans holding 63 of the 110 seats.
Rep. Jeff FARRINGTON (R-Utica), the chair of the House Roads and Economic Development Committee, which helped craft the House roads plan, said he was encouraged by the movement of the road bills.
"I wouldn't say it's a step backward or an improvement," Farrington said of the Senate's changes. "I think it's their view of what needs to be done. I think it's, in general, a good plan."
However, Farrington wouldn't say whether he would vote for the Senate plan.
"I don't think it will come before us exactly as it is," Farrington said. "But it might,"
Farrington did sponsor a proposal to decrease the income tax rate last session.
Rep. Mike MCCREADY (R-Birmingham), who has been more open than some of his caucus mates to new revenue for roads, said he was glad lawmakers continue to advance a new program to increase funding roads.
"It's just going to take me time to understand it completely, its effects and its impacts and to discuss it with other members," McCready said of the Senate proposal
Likewise, Pettalia said he needed more time to read the entire Senate plan.
But Pettalia said he was disappointed that the Senate plan comes in the form of altered House bills so the bills likely won't be vetted in a traditional committee process.
Pettalia said he was also disappointed that the Senate dropped two bills from the House plan that would have shifted funding from MEDC to roads.
"I think that it's going to be a problem in the House to get votes that may be needed," he predicted.
Pettalia along with multiple other sources predicted the Senate proposal would eventually end up in conference committee.
"I think we're at the same standstill," said one source who declined to be named.
The source also noted that only 19 members of the Senate voted for the gas tax increase and the House has tended to lean more conservative. One of the more conservative members of the House, Rep. Todd COURSER (R-Lapeer), pointed to the argument, as well.
"I don't know how the hell they're going to get it through the House," Courser said of the Senate plan.
Courser, who opposes tax increases as part of the road solution, predicted the matter would end up in conference committee and the eventual compromise between lawmakers and Gov. Rick SNYDER will take Democratic votes to pass.
Like others, Courser noted that the Senate road plan would be a test for House Speaker Kevin COTTER (R-Mt. Pleasant).
Cotter, who was supported by many conservatives in his race for House GOP leader last year, will have to decide what to do with the Senate's proposal.
"This is a spot where basically the rubber meets the road," Courser said. "This is a moment where he gets to show his true qualities."
Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF said on Wednesday that he hoped the gas tax increase bills would go to the House and be approved so the Senate wouldn't have to vote on them again.
"I would really like the revenue piece to go over and then they would concur and it would be done," as Meekhof put it.
Gideon D'ASSANDRO, Cotter's spokesperson, didn't reveal the Speaker's personal feelings in a statement today about the timeline for the Senate road plan in the House.
D'Assandro said, "We will give our members some time to review it and then see what they think. Once they've had a chance to consider it, we'll see where we are."
Over on the Democratic side, Katie CAREY, press secretary for House Minority Leader Tim GREIMEL (D-Auburn Hills), called it a "non-starter" for her members.
"We agreed without our colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus that this is extremely flawed and unlikely to garner significant support within our caucus," Carey said.
House members are scheduled to return to Lansing for session on July 14.