Roads And A Different Type Of Letter

A Better Way to Fix Our Roads

Christchurch, New Zealand - March 20 2011: Fitzgerald Avenue Bridge Destruction.It seems that soon, the ‘dodge-em’ game on the way to work is going to turn into bumper cars.

Yeah, the roads are bad. A combination of a harsh winter, diverting funds for an unneeded bridge construct, along with poor planning and oversight from the transportation committee has left the roads in Michigan in the worst shape since forever.

The road building interests are already chomping at the bit, eager to get those lucrative contracts. The public is ready for any relief from the banging, swerving, and white knuckling trips to the store or work.  The stock prices on the strut and tire manufacturers have likely been going through the roof.

Something needs to be done.

The road lobby has loved Governor Snyder’s first suggestion of raising revenue (raise taxes) by a $billion-point-two.  The tax and spend sycophants in the legislature have eagerly lined up for their favor from the guv, and were ready to give him what he wanted. Until the push back by taxpayers.

Republican speaker Jase Bolger, seeing the the gathering of pitchforks by the ‘townsfolk,’ has seemingly cut the ‘revenue increase’ part of the solution in half, but tax increases are still going to be part of the equation. And even the guy who at first touted his efforts in creating the alternative is still afraid to stand on its merits, letting Bolger take all the credit for himself. (listen to this montage – hilarious)

Peter denied Christ only three times; I guess this must be a pretty serious threat to someone’s campaign. (and no, I am not really comparing anyone in Lansing..) 

There are some folks in Lansing who look at this a little differently however.  Representative Greg MacMaster (R-105) of Kewadin sent out a statement yesterday, essentially saying tax increases are unnecessary.  He wrote:

” Members of the legislature don’t agree on much, but one thing we all agree on is that Michigan’s roads are in poor condition and must be fixed. The difference legislators have is in how to accomplish that.

There is a general consensus that an additional $1.2 billion is required each year to fix our roads.

There are some who believe all the efficiencies have already been achieved in the funding, construction and maintenance of our roads and that we must now raise taxes.

There are others, such as myself, that believe we can fix our roads by being innovative, more efficient and without resorting to raising taxes on motorists who are already paying the 6th highest gas tax in the country.

Following are five reform proposals that include some of Speaker Jase Bolger’s recent transportation funding proposal. They also include other reforms that were introduced last year but have not been acted on.

These reforms identify over a billion dollars that can be allocated to roads without increasing taxes.

(1) Dedicate a portion of the sales tax on gasoline for roads

When motorists purchase gasoline, they pay state and federal taxes for each gallon. Motorists also pay a 6% sales tax on top of that, which most people assume goes to roads. It doesn’t. It’s diverted to other government spending.

Dedicating 1.5% of the 6% for roads doesn’t solve the problem of diverting money people believe already goes to roads, but it’s a start.

This is a modification of Speaker Jase Bolger’s transportation proposal and would raise $195 million.

(2) Repeal Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Laws

These laws dictate the minimum amount that workers for certain types of public construction projects must be paid. These arbitrary amounts are upwards of 25% higher than amounts paid by the private sector.

A study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy found that “repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law would have an impact the equivalent of giving every taxpayer a rebate equal to five percent of his state income tax payments.”

According to an October 2013 report by the House Fiscal Agency, individual income tax revenue is expected to be approximately $8.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2013-14.

If the state realized the savings forecast by the Mackinac Center study it could result in a savings of $415 million that could be reallocated to roads.

(3) Permanently dedicate 1% of use tax revenue to roads

This is part of Speaker Jase Bolger’s transportation proposal and would raise $239 million.

(4) Redirect Oil & Gas royalty revenue to roads

In May 2001, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund cap was reached, resulting in $35 million a year in excess funds to be directed to the State Park Endowment Fund and the Game and Fish Protection Fund.

As oil and gas is often transported over Michigan’s roads, this unexpected windfall should be rerouted to maintaining Michigan’s roads.

(5) Competitively bid certain state agency services

A recent analysis by the Legislature’s House Fiscal Agency identified $2.4 billion in state spending that includes budgetary line items where additional savings could be realized through competitive bidding. A mere 3% in total spending would result in a savings of $72 million.

Additionally, if the Corrections Department’s health and medical services were competitively bid, it could realize a $50 million savings.

Combined, that’s a $122 million savings that could be transferred to roads.

Total savings from just these five reforms: over a billion dollars and NO TAX INCREASE!

Does this package of reform proposals solve our road problem? No, but it’s a start. It’s perpetual funding that would help create a long term funding solution for our roads and bridges as well as preserve Act 51.

Speaker Jase Bolger has some good ideas that do not rely on higher taxes. I’ve also offered a few. And there are other legislators who are sharpening their pencils and offering innovative ideas as well.

Other legislators have proposed creative solutions to lower overall transportation costs, provide better value for taxpayers through road construction guarantees, and identify new sources of revenue that do not include higher taxes.

Some of the most creative measures may not have been realized yet. Not a day goes by without constituents suggesting ideas for other reforms in policy and operation of state government, and many of them are quite good.

Raising taxes is seldom their first choice, why should it be ours?

That last line right there?  Pure gold.

You Betcha! (16)Nuh Uh.(1)

  6 comments for “Roads And A Different Type Of Letter

  1. Randy Mc
    May 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    And our Illustrious Rep. Schmidt, chair of the Transportation committee is unable to explain just where all the money is spent. When asked, did you ask MDOT for a breakdown of spending, his answer was "they won't tell me" So until MDOT comes clean on how much money is spend on actually repairing or building roads and bridges, NO MORE TAXES. The poor condition of our roads has more to do with the lack of oversight by the Transportation committee than the bad weather!

    You Betcha! (4)Nuh Uh.(0)
  2. KG One
    May 6, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Two things that I've never understood.

    First, how did the original estimate of reprogramming the sales tax go from about $1-billion down to almost half (about $500-million)?

    Where did $500-million "disappear" to?

    Second, why are monies siphoned into mass transit off-limits?

    A line item in the state budget, the comprehensive transportation fund (essentially a slush fund taken from MDOT and given to the various government mass transit money pits around Michigan) gets around $200-million automatically.

    Why can't the people who use mass transit, pay the full freight, and the money we pay into MDOT go 100% towards roads?

    Gee, I just "found" almost $700-million without trying very hard.

    Why is it that the republicans working in Lansing (and have more time to devote to this than I) with the exception of Rep. MacMaster have such a hard time finding any savings in their own?

    You Betcha! (5)Nuh Uh.(0)
  3. Tim Bos
    May 7, 2014 at 7:38 am

    While I appreciate Rep MacMaster's attention to this problem, I think his perspective illustrates the typical lost in the woods approach by too many in Lansing.

    All state governments have core responsibilities- one of which is building and maintaining it's state's road infrastructure. Unlike bike paths, buying state land or pre-kindergarten programs, infrastructure should be one of the highest priority responsibilities that any and all states never, ever ignore.

    In Michigan, that responsibility has been widely shirked for decades. The typical approach is to assign some tax that's dedicated to roads, and then hope it generates enough cash to get the job done. If it doesn't, then it's nobody's fault because enough cash didn't come in, and the infrastructure simply deteriorates.

    Consequently, we often don't even spend enough on roads to qualify for the maximum matching dollars from the Feds, small problems grow into larger and more expensive problems to repair or rebuild, and the condition worsens year after year- by design.

    In the meantime, every pet project under the sun gets a piece of the pie, and since an arbitrary dollar amount isn't hard lined into the budgets extending out and well into the future, the budget keeps growing without a very high priority of state responsibility continuing to remain protected and maintained- and is instead left with whatever happens to show up from year to year.

    So here's what we end up with. The roads are crap, the bridges are crap, road building contracts are signed without warranties because it's "cheaper" that way, and the budget grows at least a billion dollars a year without the road problem being successfully addressed.

    Right now, we're spending $49 billion/yr. Georgia, who has about 100,000 more people than we do, spends over $1 billion/yr more than we do on their roads (that don't have freeze and thaw issues), and more on public education to boot- AND GETS IT ALL DONE FOR $19 BILLION/yr.

    Now you tell me- Is our standard of living $30 BILLION a year higher than Georgia's?

    And about that notion of repealing the Prevailing Wage laws. The Anderson Economic Group released a study in Nov. of last year on spending for school construction projects.

    Their conclusion was that over the last 10 yrs, we spent on average- an additional $224 million every year because of prevailing wage laws. We didn't get a single penny's worth of value for that, and that quarter billion/yr doesn't include similar waste for road construction projects either.

    Repeal the prevailing wage laws, divert the $400 million/yr savings to the General Fund, and make MDOT road spending a nonnegotiable $5 Billion/yr line item in the budget every year. Rain or shine, regardless of any extenuating circumstances, that money will be spent for roads and bridges, and treated with the some deference that school spending and community services are given.

    You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)
    • Corinthian Scales
      May 7, 2014 at 8:40 am

      Well stated, Mr. Bos. Then again, the reality is that there are Boobus Michaganderus among us that are nothing short of being masters over useful idiots preyed upon by quasi-governmental agents for Leninism.

      Yes, Rich Studley is a c***sucka, too.

      You Betcha! (6)Nuh Uh.(0)
      • May 7, 2014 at 10:27 am

        Your language is much more... civil than mine would be.

        You Betcha! (2)Nuh Uh.(0)
        • Corinthian Scales
          May 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm

          LOL! I just noticed your comment. Jr., I only choose to moderate the colorfulness of my rich, adept, command of profanity as it was not long ago conveyed to me there are those who are such hothouse flowers that they get the fantods when something as mundane as the word vagina is mentioned. Frankly, I'm too old and too set in my ways for always having to appease a bunch of pussies (no, not that kind - this kind). Whenever I feel like writing in the future, well, whatever happens - happens. 'Nuff said.

          Onto bigger and better things.

          TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools board members didn't know it was legal for someone with a concealed pistol license to openly carry a loaded firearm into a Michigan school until this year.

          REST

          I just dunno, anymore. Is it possible TC elected an entire board that is that goddam stupid? Maybe that phony Kelly Hall bitch and on his way out Stephen Cousins asshole that never met a tax hike he didn't like need some special education courses so TC's Precious Snowflakes™ have a better understanding about our RTKABA.

          You Betcha! (0)Nuh Uh.(0)

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