Michigan residents have long been burdened by the poor state of our roads and bridges. The state has a history of throwing money at short-term fixes instead of finding long-term solutions that actually solve the problem instead of prolonging it.
Much of the attention last year landed on the governor’s proposed hike to the state’s gas tax as the answer. I joined lawmakers and residents in opposing a drastic tax increase as the answer to fixing our roads. Michigan residents are taxed enough and further burdening them at the pump was not a real solution.
In late January, we prepared for a night of optimism and a positive outlook for Michigan’s future after a historically difficult budget season. Instead, the governor sat in front of the entire state and announced that she’s choosing to bypass our system of checks and balances altogether and pursue bonding as a solution to fixing Michigan’s roads. The next day, the Michigan Department of Transportation was given the authority to sell bonds to pay for state road repairs.
I have concerns about her plan as it seems to ignore the empirical downfalls of bonding. We have seen, over generations, how it has not been effective.
Bonding is not a funding mechanism. That is money that needs to come from somewhere else in our budget when the bill comes. In fact, we are still paying off bonds from Gov. Engler’s time in office. This pattern shows us that roads likely will not last the three decades that we will be paying the governor’s plan back. Then, we’ll find ourselves in a situation where we’ll be stuck with a loan payment, as well as the bill to fix the again-deteriorating roads.
Worse yet, the governor’s plan focuses heavily on Southeast Michigan and other urban areas, once again leaving rural communities like ours behind. However, that’s not stopping the governor from requiring you, me and our children to pay it back.
The money is there to fix the roads. We moved up funding from the 2015 road funding plan, resulting in a record investment using existing funds. The increase in road projects you’ve seen in the last couple years is the result of that plan. Last year, the Legislature even approved an additional $375 million to fully implement the 2015 plan and open the door for future efforts. Sadly, Gov. Whitmer vetoed this funding as retribution for not approving her 45-cent gas tax increase.
Borrowing $3.5 billion now, just to pay $5 billion back later, is not the answer. The Legislature has spent the last decade paying down these types of debts and the governor’s executive action does nothing but send us back down the hole we just climbed out of.
Sen. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, represents the 33rd state Senate District, which includes Clare, Gratiot, Isabella, Mecosta, and Montcalm counties.