14 December 2009

Senate Sending $197M To Michigan

Detroit News

Michigan will receive nearly $197 million for 150 projects, plus a boost for Detroit's light rail project and embattled auto dealers, under a massive spending bill the Senate passed Sunday.

The $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, passed 57 to 35, goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.

The legislation includes about $4 billion for 5,000 pet projects requested by members Congress.

Michigan's earmarks include money to help former prisoners stay away from crime, upgrade police radio and surveillance equipment, buy greener public buses, keep open battered women's shelters, improve airports, build bike paths and beautify streets, and install electronic record-keeping at health clinics.

"This funding will provide critical investments to create jobs across our state," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who, along with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, voted for the legislation.

"These dollars will be used to expand our transportation sector to revitalize our communities ... support education programs and workforce training, as well as much-needed resources fro Michigan's military installations," Stabenow added.

The legislation also requires binding arbitration for the more than 1,350 dealers that General Motors Co. plans to close and would set up an appeals process for 789 Chrysler Group LLC dealers that were closed in June.

The legislation also enables Detroit to get over a key financial hurdle for the Woodward Avenue Light Rail project by requiring the Federal Transit Administration to count $120 million in private money for the first phase of the system to count in the local match needed to eventually qualify for federal funds.

Levin said that the match allowance is "bringing us one step closer to realizing the dream of light rail in Detroit," which would reach from Hart Plaza to Eight Mile Road.

Michigan funding includes:

• $38 million for military construction, including $8.9 million to replace troop quarter at the Alpena Combat Readiness Center, $7.1 million for an A-10 flight simulator and operations workspace for the 127th Wing A-10 Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, and $14 million for facilities for the 110th Fighter Wing at the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

• $28.2 million for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to restock fish and control the sea lamprey.

• $500,000 to rehabilitate the Detroit City Airport's taxiway A and east end runway, and $730,500 for the Oakland County International Airport Terminal Building.

• $750,000 to renovate the roof of the historic Detroit Institute of Arts.

• $3.5 million for the Ann Arbor-to-Detroit Regional Rail project.

• $1 million for Detroit's Eastside Firearm Reduction Initiative, which would increase police visibility in the eastern and northeastern areas to reduce shootings, armed robberies and carjackings.

• $350,000 to install technology recognizing license plates in some Detroit Police cruisers to make it easier to find stolen or wanted vehicles.

• $1 million for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, which protects scores of historic shipwrecks.

• $1.3 million for construction of a Troy-Birmingham Multi-modal Transit Center, which would be a hub for regional public transportation, combining Amtrak rail, SMART bus services, and taxi connections.

"A new regional transit center will spur business growth, create jobs and allow residents and visitors to travel more easily in and out of Oakland County," said Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, who pushed for the funds.

"Local residents have been pushing for more public transportation for years, and this transportation hub will be a cornerstone of a larger regional public transit plan," said Peters, who is meeting with local authorities Monday to discuss the next steps for the transit center.

The bill contains $447 billion for transportation, justice, health, education, veterans and several federal agencies that have been operating on a stop-gap measure set to expire Friday.

The bill also includes $650 billion in mandatory payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and an average 2 percent pay raise for federal workers.

Republican opponents said the bill spends too much at a time of enormous federal deficits.

"Obviously we need to run the government, but do you suppose the government could be a little bit like families and be just a little bit prudent in how much it spends?" said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

But the he National Automobile Dealers Association was pleased by the dealer provision, which gives terminated dealers and those expected to be closed 45 days to file an appeal, after which a neutral arbitrator will weigh the economic interests of the manufacturer, dealer, and taxpayers, who provided $62 billion in funds to help GM and Chrysler survive.

"The amendment will provide a fair process to address dealer concerns about the recent closures of General Motors and Chrysler dealerships, and will give affected dealers transparency and the right to arbitrate to regain their dealerships," the group said in a statement.

Mark Reuss, GM's new North America president, has called the provision "a good thing" and "an opportunity for all of us to make the right decisions and move on." It's uncertain whether Chrysler will fight the provision, and spokeswoman Linda Becker did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the arbitration process will serve the interests of the automakers and dealers.

"Just as manufacturers need a strong and robust dealer network, dealers are critical parts of the distribution chain and important actors in their local communities, offering hundreds of thousands of jobs," Conyers said.

No comments: