Detroit Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference 2015 Starts Today - You Won't Like The Outcome
Is that a donkey in front of the Grand Hotel?
Later today Michigan’s Self Very Important Persons start checking in at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference held on Mackinac Island. At $ 2,150 per person for Chamber members and $ 2,925 for Chamber wannabees, average Michiganders will not be much in evidence. The attendees list reads like the last itemized contribution report for SafeRoadsYes!, along with the clueless Michigan politicians who endorsed Proposal 1.
The Detroit Regional Chamber’s “Vision and Pillars” for the 2015 Conference is innocuous enough, but the Conference’s agenda is far less oblique. A host of left luminaries and crony capitalists orbiting Michigan government will be plotting higher taxes, bigger spending, and more vexatious regulations. When they are not drinking.
The official agenda is all about Detroit, Michigan schools, alternative business subsidies, and the roads, but there is also the transformation of Detroit Water & Sewerage Department into the Great Lakes Water Authority lurking in the background. Roads are the most interesting part of the official 2015 Conference agenda, given the near universal support for Proposal 1 amongst the attendees. Despite touting ‘vision’, expect the Conference to endorse new taxes over improved efficiencies and better engineering.
The Michigan Office of the Auditor General released its overdue performance audit of MDoT’s Bridge Inspection Program Friday afternoon, just in time to miss last week’s news cycle. Weekend news reports focused on bridge inspection frequency, but there is a more fundamental question which should be answered first: Are the MDoT bridge records which were audited complete and correct? Even remotely so?
The Federal Highway Administration collects bridge data from the State DoT’s and other sources to create and maintain the National Bridge Inventory. It is supposed to list all American bridges which have roads running across them or below them, along with ownership, identifiers, and condition data. Condition data is given as a number from 0 (failed) through 9 (good beyond current standards). These numbers then get converted into the descriptors you read in the press, such as ‘structurally deficient’, poor, good, etc.
The MOAG performance audit is replete with statistics derived from MDoT’s bridge inventory database which show – no surprise – that some of Michigan’s bridges are in poor shape. You can see MOAG’s statistics as of April 30th, 2014 in the audit or go to a searchable database of individual bridge data across the entire country, as of 2012, brought to us by Alexander Svirsky of MassRoads.com.
A first pass at the MOAG bridge inspection audit involved looking at the worst condition category of bridges, those rated 0 or 1 for failed or imminent failure. Going through the Wayne County owned bridge summary on Page 51 of the new MOAG audit, I was heartened to see that Wayne County has no condition category 0 or 1 bridges. But there are at least two zero condition category major bridges in Wayne County across the Rouge River, so let’s say I am experiencing a little cognitive dissonance just now.
Reflex Conditioning Drives Uncontrolled Government Spending
The brilliant, Nobel Prize winning physiologist Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov demonstrated that you could condition a dog to salivate by sounding a metronome. All he had to do was sound the metronome when putting out food for his dogs. It did not take long for his dogs to associate the sound of the metronome with food. Then he no longer even had to put food out to get the dogs to salivate; he only had to sound the metronome.
Today, inferior rank politicians have been conditioned to salivate when a financial grant is offered by superior rank politicians. The only problem with these grants of largess is that they always come with caveats, and usually require matching funds. These restrictions are a deliberate – and successful – effort to frustrate all efforts to manage government expenditures.
Mass Transit Skims $ 120 Million from Proposal 2015-01 Road Work Funds
Ever hear of the Michigan Comprehensive Transportation Fund? Ten cents of every Michigan fuel tax dollar gets diverted to this mass transportation slush fund. It is only just behind the sales tax as a diversion of your current fuel tax dollars from Michigan’s roads.
All motor vehicle fuel taxes collected in the State of Michigan are first deposited into the Michigan Transportation Fund. Then MCL 247.660 (1)(f) (Public Act 51 of 1951) dictates that 10% of the funds deposited in the Michigan Transportation Fund be immediately transferred to the Comprehensive Transportation Fund. The amended version of MCL 247.660 you are being offered in Proposal 2015-01 has the very same section (1)(f), making the same 10% immediate diversion.
So the $ 1.2 billion that Proposal 2015-01 supporters are promising you for road work is actually only $ 1.08 billion. Kirk T. Steudle, P.E. gets a whole new stash to maintain and expand his stable of rotting train cars, $ 120 million that cannot be spent on the roads by law. $ 120 million that gets skimmed from the $ 1.2 billion you are being promised for the roads. And no, it is not skimmed from the $ 800 million that Proposal 2015-01 dedicates to the Democratic base.
Now you now know how Michigan political math works in the age of Common Core. Pay $ 2 billion for roads, get $ 1 billion in road work.