Better roads require a better plan

The dueling proposals to fix Michigan’s abysmal roads share one thing in common — both plans are deeply flawed.

Michigan roads are falling apart. Getting them fixed is an urgency, and if a massive effort does not begin by April, it will become an emergency.

After frittering away months to bicker over wolves and run political campaigns, legislators can focus their attention on this dire issue during a three-week lame-duck session.

Those dueling proposals come from the Republican leadership.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville favors a $1.2 billion tax increase to pay for decent roads. Gov. Rick Snyder endorses this plan, which would more than double the state tax on motor fuel.

The Richardville proposal ignores the fact that Michigan motorists already are paying their fair share. Only a handful of states impose higher taxes at the pumps.

Under this plan, Michigan motorists would pay 80-plus cents a gallon just for taxes. No state has a heavier tax burden.

An alternative idea from House Speaker Jase Bolger would remove the 6 percent sales tax from fuel, replacing it with an equivalent tax for better roads.

So far, so good. Michigan’s dilemma — high taxes, poor roads — is structural. Taxes are imposed in illogical ways.

Unfortunately, Bolger’s solution also promises something (a billion new dollars for roads) for nothing (no tax increase).

His billion-dollar bonanza is money that otherwise would go to K-12 schools and for local programs such as public safety and community health.

In effect, Bolger is making an end-run around the state constitution. Rather than ask voters to amend the constitutional formula on how tax revenues are distributed, he would let lawmakers pick and choose what gets taxed and what does not.

Bolger’s plan also takes six years to fully implement. That’s a long wait for better roads.

When something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Bolger’s blueprint may or may not fix the roads, but it absolutely harms schools and communities.

— TIMES HERALD (PORT HURON)