Voters can push lawmakers to address state roads crisis

Guest Editorial
Like a face full of sunshine, for most of us an income tax cut is something you just don’t turn your back on.

But Michigan lawmakers appear ready to do just that — and most anyone who owns a car or truck should be glad they are, and be ready to demand more.

Just a couple months ago, when Michigan was still in the grip of the Winter From Hades, it seemed a lock that lawmakers were going to concoct some sort of income tax reduction as a way to give back to taxpayers a modest $100 million budget surplus. A plan by Gov. Rick Snyder would have provided a tax cut retroactive to 2013 that would have given most taxpayers $79 on average.

Instead, lawmakers are finally listening to constituents who are fed up with the Legislature’s dereliction of duty concerning state roads and bridges. For decades now, lawmakers have siphoned off untold millions in general fund money that should have been spent on roads and used the money for other purposes — usually a politically motivated pet project.

It was a gross redistribution of wealth that led, pothole after pothole, to the place we find ourselves today — an estimated $1.2 billion per year short of what we need to maintain our road system.

Michigan is regularly ranked among the worst states in the nation in terms of its roads, and we must spend billions to catch up. While the damage to bridges is less apparent than to our pocked, patched and potholed roads, the situation is just as dire — and in the end much more dangerous.

Sure, $79 on average is a nice piece of change; and who doesn’t want to actually get some money back from the government? But our roads reached the crisis stage years ago and the recent winter made things much worse. We’ve now gone from serious to critical. There’s no time left to kick the can down the road — and into a pothole.

So there are two things to celebrate here — that state roads may finally get some of the money and attention they so desperately need; and that state lawmakers have finally listened to their constituents.

But beware — promise to spend money on roads may last only as long as patch in a pothole.

But there is leverage here. Every seat in the Michigan Legislature is up for election this year,so if voters want a say, now is the time, Tell your state lawmaker you expect him to vote for meaningful road funding — even with the tax cut money the state is only about half way to the $1.2 billion Snyder says we need annually — before the August primary elections, and you’ll be watching.

Who knows? The politicians appear to have listened once; maybe they’ll do it again.