TIM SKUBICK COLUMN: A bridge offer they can’t refuse

Senate leader considers adding local bridge funds to win votes on Detroit-Windsor span

To be sure, the Senate GOP leader is not a Don Corleone, but he is about to make an offer to his colleagues that he hopes they can’t refuse. And it looks like they might.

You see, it is Sen. Randy Richardville’s job to push Gov. Rick Snyder’s agenda through the Senate, and for the first seven months the pushing actually worked.

Now comes that bridge thing, and there’s an unseemly pushback by members of Mr. Snyder’s own party, of all things. Even though the guv told them way back when that building the span between Detroit and Windsor was the right thing to do, the guv and Mr. Richardville have failed to produce 20 votes to do it.

In fact, in one early count there was reportedly one vote … Sen. Richardville’s. Ouch.

And just days ago, the Monroe GOP guy confessed he still doesn’t have the votes despite a whole summer of lobbying by the governor and his man Friday, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

So here comes Mr. R. mounting his white horse to snatch victory from the almost certain jaws of defeat. Give him credit for crafting an offer that deserves attention before it is refused.

Richardville’s logic goes like this: if one bridge is good, 167 bridges are even better.

The Senate leader discovered that Michigan has 167 bridges across the state that are in various stages of disrepair. In Macomb County, for example, some 56 spans are either “structurally or functionally obsolete,” meaning you wouldn’t want to drive over them. And there are similar findings in other counties as well.

So what’s that got to do with the Detroit bridge, you ask?

Everything.

Mr. Richardville is considering lumping money for those bridge repairs into the same package with the governor’s bridge.

“It’s short-sighted to focus on just one bridge,” he asserts, and, of course, the strategy is thus: Local lawmakers will vote for a plan that repairs their bridges in return for giving the governor a vote on his.

It sounds like bribery, of which Don Corleone would be proud, but in legislative parlance it’s called horse trading, which is not only legal, it’s a time-honored tradition.

It looks good on paper and in theory it should work. Ah but … and there is always an ah but … the initial soundings inside the very conservative and very anti-Detroit bridge GOP caucus are not very encouraging.

One guy is wondering why Richardville doesn’t just go to the governor and tell him his “London” bridge is falling down. Of course, Richardville can’t, which is why he dreamed up this scheme.

Another senator thinks the two issues should be voted on separately, but to do that,

Mr. Richardville would lose his leverage to get the governor what he wants.

But don’t ever count the governor out. He always has a plan B if the votes don’t materialize, and Mr. Calley spilled the beans the other day by conceding the front office might go around the lawmakers and build the bridge without them.

Mr. Calley quickly notes that is not the first option, because hope springs eternal in the Snyder inner circle that right will win out and magically the votes will be there. But don’t bet the farm on that or the Richardville alternative.

Maybe the Senate GOP leader should be in the market for some used horse heads?

 

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.

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Posted by Tim Skubick

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.

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