Legislators leave town, leave voters in their dust

Guest Editorial
Just when it looked as though the Michigan Legislature had learned the wisdom of heeding clear-cut citizen majorities on critical issues, there they were, backsliding again.

This time, with the August primaries almost upon us and the November general election looming, some lawmakers may indeed face consequences for their inaction.

Repercussions at the polls may be the only way to get their attention.

Even before the winter of 2013-14 battered the state and its decrepit roads, citizens across Michigan demanded lawmakers take decisive action to fix the problem.

Gov. Rick Snyder said the state needed to spend an additional $1.2 billion a year (some put the number at $2 billion) to repair our horrific roads and bridges. The brutal winter only made things worse, and demands for a fix grew louder.

But a proposal to nearly double the gas tax to generate revenue needed to fix our roads failed in a late-night session. Lawmakers then packed their bags for a 12-week — that’s right, 12 weeks — vacation so they can campaign to keep their supposedly full-time jobs.

So now they’re home pressing the flesh and collecting campaign contributions while we’re banging around on roads that should never have crumbled to their current despicable state.

The failure to launch on roads — which voters have consistently ranked as the No. 1 issue in the state, was all the more disappointing because lawmakers recently put aside hardened political positions on a number of issues, the first real compromises from this Legislature in a very long time.

Lawmakers agreed to a true compromise deal to raise the minimum wage. The final bills cut the legs from under a petition effort (supported by more than 60 percent of voters) to raise the minimum to $10.10 an hour.

But the final deal was a lot better than an earlier version that also would have scuttled the petition process but raised the minimum by just a few cents.

Neither side got everything they wanted, but both sides got something. That’s the nature of compromise.

Lawmakers also agreed to a $195 million bailout for Detroit and to a major increase in K-12 spending that helps make up for significant cuts in recent years.

Skipping town for the summer without making progress on voters’ chief issue not only is politically dangerous but ethically bankrupt.

Bad roads cost state residents money; they can also cause accidents and even deaths. Making road repairs a political football shows contempt for the people and the process.