Detroit News: Senate won't touch blight aid to pay for highway bill

Washington — Senate Republican leadership on Friday unveiled a substitute version of the long-term highway bill that wouldn’t deprive Detroit and other cities of money to continue fighting neighborhood blight.

“It removes provisions that would have terminated the $1.7 billion Hardest Hit Fund mortgage program,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Friday morning on the Senate floor.

“Several senators on both sides of the aisle, and in particular Senator (Rob) Portman on our side of the aisle who has been a real champion on this issue, expressed their opposition to its termination. So we have reduced spending levels in the bill to accommodate this change, while ensuring the bill remains fully paid for three years.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, had held up a procedural vote on the transportation legislation late Thursday until McConnell promised to strike the Hardest Hit Funds originally included to offset a portion of the bill’s cost, she said.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, took to the floor to applaud the compromise — “something that happens too little here in Washington,” he said.

Peters highlighted that the fund — originally created for mortgage aid to help homeowners avoid foreclosure — has helped demolish thousands of vacant buildings across Michigan and assisted more than 25,000 property owners in the state preserve “their piece of the American dream — their family home.”

“I was prepared to oppose the legislation that we are considering today because I believe these changes would do damage to the economic recovery in my state,” Peters said in a floor speech.

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By:  Melissa Nann Burke
Source: Detroit News