A pair of tie-barred Senate bills were recently introduced in Lansing to appropriate surplus dollars from the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) toward transportation improvements.
Senate Bills (SBs) 1273 and 1274 would amend Public Act 451 of 1994, under the “Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.”
Under constitutional and statutory provisions, oil and gas royalty revenues generated by the state are earmarked first for the NRTF, and then the State Parks Endowment Fund.
Current Michigan law states the amount annually accumulated in the NRTF is capped at $500 million, exclusive of interest, earnings, and amounts authorized for expenditure. Any funds accummulated annually beyond the trust fund cap are deposited in the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund until it reaches an accumulated principal of $800 million.
SBs 1273 and 1274 require any surplus dollars accumulated above the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund to be earmarked for construction, maintenance and improvements of roads, streets and bridges by counties, cities, and villages, by depositing those surplus dollars into the Michigan Transportation Fund.
The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC), which stands to receive some of those surplus funds if the bills are enacted, would welcome any new funding sources, but at this point road commission officials are unsure what the impact would be.
“It’s impossible to say at this point if we will ever get any money and what the likelihood is if any monies exceed the amounts once they filter through the NRTF formula,” said RCOC Spokesperson Craig Bryson. “The danger is that legislators may use this for solving the (road) funding problem. Theoretically, it could direct some money into roads, but it remains to be seen how much, and if it will ever happen.”
Bill sponsors include Sens. Bruce Caswell (R-Fawn River); John Proos (R-St. Joseph); David Hildenbrand (R-Lowell); James Marleau (R-Lake Orion); Tonya Shuitmaker (R-Antwerp Township); Judith Emmons (R-Sheridan); John Pappageorge (R-Troy); and Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton).
The bills are being reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.