Politics Gets in the Way of Fixing Michigan Roads - Call Lee Free

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Politics Gets in the Way of Fixing Michigan Roads

The Michigan legislature broke for summer recess and incredibly failed to pass a bill to increase road funding to fix our state’s broken roads and highways.  This occurred despite the fact a recent poll showed that fixing our state’s broken roads is the #1 issue for Michigan voters.

The legislature, which is Republican controlled, introduced a number of different bills to increase funding for road repair work.  They all failed, mostly due to Republican intra-party politics.

One idea was to implement a 25 cent gas tax over 4 years.   This approach was actually supported by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, an organization that hates everything to do with taxes and is one of the biggest supports of the Michigan Republican Party.  However, the gas tax hike went down in a ball of flames on the senate floor when Senate Republicans refused to support the bill.

Another idea was to pass a resolution that would have let voters in November decide whether to raise the 6% sales tax rate 1% percentage point.  This would have raised more than $1 billion in revenue for road repair work.  This resolution also died in the Senate.

A third bill presented was to increase permit fees for overweight trucks.  This is a popular idea.  Michigan permit chares for heavy trucks are well below over states and studies have demonstrated that heavy cars and trucks put the most stress on roadways, thereby creating more road repair work.  But this bill also went down.

In my opinion, there are multiple reasons these bills died.  First, the Republican Party has a number of senate members who will never vote for a tax increase, no matter the implications.  Due to gerrymandering in 2011 that made their seats even safer and more conservative, these Senators are more worried about a primary opponent from the right than losing in a general election matchup.

Second, Governor Snyder has little control over his caucus on some issues and frankly doesn’t have the political will to get a deal done.  I’m not sure why, but the fact he can’t a deal done with basically a super majority in the Senate and a majority in the House is a mystery to me.

Last, the senators who allowed these bills to die are not afraid of the public.  They don’t think their failure to get our roads fixed will lead to any political repercussions in the future.  This arrogance is disturbing but it is grounded in fact – especially when you consider the safe districts most senators enjoy.

I urge citizens of all political stripes to call their individuals representatives to get a deal done.  The pothole problem is not going away.  Our roads are crumbling and the issue needs to be addressed soon before another long Michigan winter makes it our way again.

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