David Eggert

U.S. Senate Democrats on Thursday proposed up to $400 million in emergency federal aid to Flint, Mich., half of what the state’s Republican governor says it will cost to replace and fix the city’s lead-contaminated pipes.

Senate Republicans were noncommittal on whether they would back the measure that would spend money without any offsetting budget cuts and add to the deficit.

The Senate could vote as early as next week on the proposal, a move with political implications as Democrats insist that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other state officials ignored a dire problem in the majority black city of 100,000 north of Detroit.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said “there’s no doubt” in her mind that if the water problem had occurred in a wealthy, white community, the state would have responded immediately.

A spokesman for Snyder disputed Stabenow’s claim.

As governor, Snyder “takes the well-being of all Michiganders very seriously, regardless of where they are from,” spokesman Dave Murray said.

Snyder was reviewing the Senate proposal but is “always grateful for support from our federal partners,” Murray said.

In Lansing, Michigan lawmakers directed another $28 million on Thursday to address Flint’s lead-contaminated water supply, allocating money for bottled water, medical assessments and other costs for the financially struggling city.

The quick and unanimous approval by the House and Senate came just over a week after the funding was proposed by Snyder, who is expected to sign it quickly.

“We obviously have a number of issues that we have to deal with, whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s folks having to pay for water that obviously is undrinkable,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint. “But the most important I think right now … is to start the focus on the assessment and the providing of services.”

This is the second round of funding enacted since the crisis was confirmed in the fall, bringing the total allocated to nearly $39 million. Snyder has promised to put forward more funding for Flint in his upcoming annual budget proposal — when he also will detail plans for a one-time $575 million surplus — but has not said how much.

The Board of State Canvassers rejected petitions Thursday to recall the Republican governor over his handling of Flint’s water. Meanwhile, Progress Michigan, a liberal group critical of Snyder, released emails showing the state was sending water coolers a year ago to employees at a state office building in Flint.

That occurred after Flint announced it had briefly flunked some drinking water standards apart from the current lead contamination. The state told workers they could use the water cooler or drinking fountains.

“We have provided it continuously. That was a decision we made as the building owner” in Flint, said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings.

The damage to Flint’s water distribution system potentially is $713 million, according to an assessment cited in the state’s request for federal aid.