Bumpy roads on horizon for Michigan

Guest Editorial
No one should have been surprised when Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to get $1.2 billion in new road funds fell flat in the Legislature in 2013.

Michigan has consistently ranked in the bottom 40 states for road funding since the 1960s.

While lawmakers were able to add an additional $350 million for road and infrastructure, the funding is only a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging femoral artery. And we need to stop the bleeding.

To his credit, the governor stepped out front of a touchy subject of raising fees or taxes to help address what could eventually become a major budgetary crisis.

The Michigan Transportation Fund comes from a 19-cent state gas tax on unleaded fuel, 18.4-cent federal gasoline tax and a 15-cent diesel gas tax.

The taxes rates have remained the same at a time when fewer people are driving and improved mile-per-gallon cars are hitting the streets. Between 2004 and 2011, the state lost $7.8 billion in tax revenue because fewer people were buying gas.

Estimates for the amount of capital needed to rebuild Michigan’s roads has ranged since 2008 between $1.2 billion and $3 billion — about double the Michigan budget deficit lawmakers faced in 2010.

Raising taxes to offset those losses has been unthinkable for many Republican lawmakers who rode into Lansing on pledges of not raising taxes — though creating a new pension tax and eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit seems to have ducked such pledges.

Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, who ran on such a no-new-taxes platform in 2010, was willing to introduce a plan last session to shift the gas tax to a 1 percent increase in the 6 percent Michigan sales tax. But, during an interview last month, he pointed to the pledges as holding back lawmakers from getting on-board any new plan for funding through taxes. His plan and other sales tax increase proposals seem to be dead through the 2014 election cycle now. …

Michigan has been ignoring the road funding problem for too long, just like it did state deficit spending until two years ago.

— Lansing State Journal