UP legislators give update on Line 5, stalled state budget

ESCANABA — Participants in a recent Delta County joint governmental roundtable discussion heard about work on Michigan’s 2019-20 budget and other state-level issues from state Sen. Ed McBroom and state Rep. Beau LaFave.

One of the topics discussed by McBroom, R-Vulcan, at Monday’s roundtable was Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Line 5 tunnel. He said Enbridge is currently working to determine the tunnel’s exact route and the company has laid out a five-year schedule for the project.

“That’s an ambitious goal, to get it done in five years, but it’s realistic,” he said.

According to McBroom, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has insisted the pipeline be shut down within two years and that — if Enbridge wishes to continue operating the pipeline without interruption — they complete the tunnel in this timespan.

McBroom said he and his fellow Upper Peninsula-based legislators made something of a “tactical mistake” in focusing primarily on the impact that shutting down Line 5 would have on propane in the U.P.

“There is a much bigger picture at play here,” he said, noting the line’s other products support tens of thousands of jobs in downstate Michigan.

He also spoke about Line 5-related legal action taken by Attorney General Dana Nessel.

“I’m not a lawyer — so, I mean, this is just what my own practical experience tells me — I don’t think she stands a ghost of a prayer of winning her lawsuits that she’s filing,” McBroom said.

A lawsuit filed by Nessel aims to revoke an easement allowing Enbridge to run its pipelines across bottomlands controlled by the state.

McBroom said courts tend to be wary when it comes to taking away property.

Roundtable attendees received an update on efforts to finalize Michigan’s 2019-20 budget, as well. While the House and Senate have passed budget proposals, McBroom said little progress has been made on the proposals beyond this.

“Primarily, things are in a holding pattern due to the governor’s request and insistence that two billion more dollars in road funding be found somewhere,” he said.

Legislators are working to find the additional money, but McBroom does not expect a “silver bullet” to be found on this issue.

According to McBroom, he is unsure whether or not Whitmer will veto the House and Senate’s budget proposals, which could create the risk of a government shutdown. However, he said that — if the budget proposals are provided to Whitmer in a timely manner and she has time to think about it — he does not believe a shutdown will occur.

“(It) might be a bit of a showdown, but I don’t think it’ll be a shutdown,” he said.

LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, felt differently about the possibility of a government shutdown over the state budget.

“I’ll be completely honest with you — the governor is going to shut this government down,” he said.

He went on to say Whitmer has “one shot” at getting her proposed tax increase approved and, if given the choice between abandoning a major campaign promise and shutting the state’s government down, he believes she will choose the latter.

During his remarks, LaFave also spoke about a recently-approved bill to reduce auto insurance in Michigan. He thanked McBroom and state Reps. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, and Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, for making this possible.

“This wasn’t just a Republican bill — without Cambensy, it would’ve been very difficult to get that,” he said.

While he felt this was a victory, LaFave plans to continue working on insurance reform in the future.

In other business, Bay College President Laura Coleman delivered a presentation on the college’s operating millage proposal.

In Delta County’s Nov. 5 election, area voters will be asked whether or not they are in favor of increasing the limitation on the amount of taxes that can be assessed against all property in Bay’s district boundaries by .8924 mills, or 89 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, for 20 years from 2019 to 2038, inclusive.

The approval of the proposal by voters would allow for the restoration of .1924 mills already approved by voters but not collected by Bay as a result of the Headlee Amendment and for a .7 mill increase to the college’s millage funding. The college would collect an estimated $1,054,256 in the increased millage’s first year.

Jordan Beck’s email address is jbeck@dailypress.net.