Michigan lawmakers moved quickly Thursday to start approving $30 million to help pay the water bills of Flint residents facing a lead-contaminated water supply.
The bill, passed unanimously by the Senate a day after Gov. Rick Snyder formally announced the plan, goes to the House for its consideration as early as next week.
Snyder has said the assistance would provide a credit for the estimated portion of residential customers’ utility bills for water that has been or will be used for drinking, cooking or bathing from 2014 until this spring, when officials hope the water is declared safe to drink again without a filter. The city’s supply was switched from Detroit water to the Flint River in 2014, but not properly treated, resulting in corrosion of lead pipes.
Residential customers would still be responsible for paying for water used for other purposes, such as to flush toilets or wash clothes.
Commercial customers would get a smaller credit.
Majority Republicans rejected Democrats’ calls to double the appropriation to $60 million so residents would be fully credited for the water portion of their water/sewer bill.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said it was unacceptable to offer a “partial refund for a product that was not only unfit for use, but actually poisoned” people.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) said he voted for the bill with some reservation, saying legislators should take more time to analyze the appropriate spending and if the money could come from another source besides Michigan’s general fund.
“There’s a lot of disagreement on exactly what that amount should be. … Maybe it’s more than $30 million, maybe it’s less than $30 million,” Hildenbrand said.
Under Snyder’s plan, residents would be credited for 65 percent of the water portion of their bill, which equates to about 30 percent of a water/sewer bill.