Thursday's so-called “quadrant” meeting inside the Capitol began at about 2 p.m. It didn't end until about two hours later.
Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) was the first to emerge from the meeting. He called the length of the meeting a “very positive sign.”
Both Cotter and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) said the quadrant had worked some details of what the ultimate road deal could look like.
“We've ironed out a bunch,” Meekhof said. “But there are still some remaining.”
He added, “We just keep narrowing in on differences.”
Cotter declined, however, to disclose any of the details that had been agreed to.
“Not yet, I don't think it will be much longer,” Cotter said.
As he left the meeting, Gov. Rick Snyder said “more positive progress” had been achieved.
Asked if he thought it was possible to have votes this month as Cotter has previously suggested, Snyder responded with a laugh, “If the Speaker says so, I'm glad to hear that.”
“Hopefully, we're getting to the point where we can come to some resolution within the quadrant and get it out to both chambers,” Snyder said.
For weeks now, Snyder, Meekhof, Cotter, Senate Minority Leader Jim ANANICH (D-Flint) and House Minority Leader Tim GREIMEL (D-Auburn Hills) have been meeting behind closed doors to negotiate what's expected to be a $1.2 billion road-funding plan.
The broad framework of the plan is said to involve somewhere around $800 million in new revenue and $400 million in existing revenue.
From there, the leaders have been trying to work out the specifics of where the new revenue would come from -- be it a gas tax increase or registration fee increases -- and how the cuts would be made.
Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also been pushing tax relief as part of the plan.
Asked about how important tax relief is to him in the plan, Snyder talked about the ongoing conversations more broadly.
“The overall discussion is very healthy,” Snyder said. “All quadrant members are being constructive about suggesting what the challenges and opportunities are.”
He continued, “We're discussing them in a factual fashion and we're getting good resolution to a number of them.”
Another key issue of concern is whether the deal will detail where the $400 million in existing funds shifted to roads in the future would come from.
Snyder said he would like to have a “good understanding” about the cuts.
“I've always said one of my concerns is doing this in a fiscally responsible fashion, not at the expense of other major programs or unrelated parties,” Snyder added.
House Republicans remain more hesitant about outlining the cuts.
Cotter said Thursday that he believes lawmakers should figure out those decisions as part of the appropriation process in the future.
“That number has become so small, the reliance on the General Fund, I don't think we have to specify the cuts ahead of time,” Cotter told reporters.
And House Appropriations Chair Al PSCHOLKA (R-Stevensville) noted Thursday that lawmakers have previously shifted about $400 million to roads without making cuts.
“If we need to make cuts, those will be known when they happen,” Pscholka said.
Many House Democrats, however, want to see the cuts listed out as part of the road deal to ensure that programs they support aren't hit.
Some Democrats are also pushing tax relief for the middle class and protections for the prevailing wage as other negotiation items.
How far those items will get remains uncertain for now.
After Thursday's meeting, Greimel spokesperson Katie CAREY said the House Democrats want a solution to fixing roads without jeopardizing public safety, health care, seniors or education.
While differences remain, leaders reported Thursday that progress continues to be made toward a deal that will likely require some level of support from all four caucuses.
“We're closer than we were the other day when we met,” Meekhof said, standing with Ananich after the meeting.
And Cotter said, “I think we're very close to having all of the 't's' crossed and 'i's' dotted but just not quite there, yet.”