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Politics & Government

State lawmakers set sights on Detroit schools rescue after putting roads in rear view

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Jake Neher
/
MPRN

State lawmakers say they can now focus on some major policy proposals now that they’ve sent a road funding plan to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

The Legislature is already diving into an overhaul of Michigan’s energy policies.

  

Republican state Representative Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, is spearheading that effort in the House. He says it’s a natural follow-up to road funding.

“It’s another infrastructure bill – trying to keep the lights on, making sure they’re affordable,” said Nesbitt.

But it’s another highly controversial issue. Opponents of the current energy bills say they would unfairly benefit utilities and reduce competition in the energy industry.

Lawmakers are also now weighing whether to commit hundreds of millions of state dollars to help Detroit Public Schools pay off its crushing debt.

Republican legislative leaders say exploring the issue is one of their top priorities.

“We’d like to take a look and see what we can do to protect the taxpayers and make them a solid financial reform that lasts for a long time,” said Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant).

Gov. Rick Snyder is asking lawmakers to approve the DPS rescue and restructuring package by year’s end.

But D’Assandro says it’s “overly optimistic” to expect lawmakers to approve bills that quickly.

“They have not done a great job tracking finances in that city for decades now,” he said. “And so it’s been hard to get information. And we’re going to need that before we make any sort of financial commitment on behalf of the taxpayers of the rest of the state.”

Speaker Cotter says he’s also not comfortable tapping the state’s School Aid Fund to help pay down the district’s crushing debt.