The two stories that most dominated Michigan politics in 2015 were, to a large extent, simultaneously resolved last week. Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature reached agreement on a $1.2 billion road funding package. On the same day the package passed, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, the lawmakers forced out of the House over allegations they abused their power to cover up a sex scandal, lost their bids to return to office via special elections.

Politically speaking, last week’s events pulled two monkeys off the backs of House Republicans, who unlike Snyder and Senate members will be facing elections in 2016. Whether or not one likes the road funding deal, getting the issue off the agenda is a big win for the House GOP.

Yes, Republican legislators will experience plenty of headaches as they face voters, given the plan’s phased-in gas tax tax increase (from 19 cents to 26.3 cents per gallon) and its roughly 20 percent increase in registration fees. But other aspects of the plan, including the fact that it doesn’t rely solely on the tax and fee increases but also taps existing government revenues, may supply just enough rhetorical aspirin to mitigate the pain.

For House Republicans, the perception that Michigan roads have been deteriorating with next to nothing being done about it was a serious liability. The fact that Michigan’s road funding budget for this year was the third highest in state history — and was achieved with no new taxes or fees — is information of the type that most of the state’s news media remains blissfully ignorant of or prefers to ignore. Unfortunately, that leaves most of the public in the dark as well.

Considering that 2016 is a presidential election year, which usually means Democrats will turnout in high numbers, it is likely House Republicans saw the final road plan as the best deal they could get. Mark these words carefully — “the best deal we could get.” It is probable we’ll hear those words repeated often during next summer’s GOP primary races.

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As for Courser and Gamrat, House Republican leaders were most assuredly relieved when neither won their special primary elections. To House Republicans, the specter of either or both being in a position to return to the Legislature would have presented at the very least a distraction, at worst an awkward and uncomfortable conundrum.

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