LANSING -- Republican lawmakers in the Michigan House on Wednesday attempted to block the governor from spending state money to build another bridge across the Detroit River into Canada.
The House Appropriations Committee approved a supplemental budget that would prohibit using state money unless the Legislature authorizes construction of the bridge.
"It's a basic rule -- it's constitutional. The Legislature has the right to appropriate funds," said Grandville Republican Rep. Dave Agema, who amended the supplemental budget proposal. "My goal is to stop spending money we didn't authorize."
Gov. Rick Snyder has met with Canadian officials and seeks to collaborate with that country to build a span that would supplement the privately owned Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has fiercely battled the proposal, and he seeks to add a span to his own bridge instead.
Mr. Snyder's spokesman, Sara Wurfel, told the Associated Press by email that administration officials "have been clear all along that Michigan taxpayers would not pay for this bridge." She said no money has been allotted for it in the new budget.
The Republican governor has said the state constitution includes Canada as a potential party to a so-called interlocal agreement.
The Canadian government has offered to pick up the cost to build Michigan's bridge plaza, getting repaid through toll revenue and not leaving state taxpayers liable even if tolls don't cover the cost.
The House bill overall cuts $168.9 million from the state's general fund from the current year budget. Mr. Agema said he doesn't know if the moves would block the agreement with Canada, but if it does, "it probably shouldn't be entered into" in the first place.
The bridge itself would be built and operated by a private company through bids.
In Canada, supporters of the $1 billion government-backed Windsor-Detroit bridge dismissed the attempt by Republican political allies of Mr. Moroun to cut off any government spending.
Several sources confirmed to The Star newspaper in Windsor Wednesday that the prime minister will visit Windsor and Detroit on Friday, when two separate announcements are expected to be made to unveil the crossing pact and building plans.
"We remain committed to building a new publicly owned bridge between Windsor and Detroit, which will benefit both countries," said Julie Vaux, press secretary for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "We continue to work with the state of Michigan and the U.S. federal government to advance this important project."
"The governor and the Canadians have said for two years that there will not be any state funds involved in the building of the bridge," said Tom Shields, a lobbyist and spokesman for backers of the bridge project. "The legislators are looking for a unicorn that doesn't exist."
Member of Parliament Brian Masse, who represents the area where the bridge is to be located, has long been a supporter of the project and is not overly concerned ongoing attempts by Mr. Moroun, either politically or in court, can stop the new bridge from becoming reality.
"I think we will be fine at the end of the day," he said. "You have one individual with his own business interests trying to control two of the world's largest economies and that simply doesn't make any logical sense."
The associate director of research for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Kim Hill, has said a new bridge between Detroit and Canada would be a spark for the Michigan economy, although his report did not address the impact on Toledo or Ohio.