Michigan’s troubled roads and bridges have been an important issue in Lansing since before I even took office. It’s been a failure of both parties, Republicans and Democrats. Instead of fixing the problem, the state has a history of focusing on patchwork, Band-Aid fixes and short-term political decisions, all while our roads remain a mess.
Last year, the governor fought to burden residents with a colossal hike to the state’s gas tax to keep her campaign promise to fix the roads. Lawmakers and residents alike universally opposed the drastic tax increase, and despite her continued efforts, the proposal was largely dead on arrival.
Fast forward to this year’s State of the State speech, where she admitted to the whole state that she doesn’t want to wait for the Legislature to help her keep her promises, so she’s choosing to bypass the people’s voice altogether. Less than 24 hours after her speech, the Michigan Department of Transportation was given the authority to sell bonds to pay for repairs to Michigan state roads only. Just like that, her plan has taken shape and Michiganders are on the hook for billions of dollars.
This move plunges the state into over $3.5 billion of debt – every dime of which you, and future generations of taxpayers, are responsible for paying back. The good news is you no longer have to worry about getting taxed out of driving – at least for the time being. The bad news is she’s going to ignore your pleas and borrow billions of dollars without you having a say where it goes and then force you to pay it back.
What the governor won’t tell you is that we’re still paying off bonding from the Gov. Engler era over 30 years ago. We are stuck paying down that debt and the roads still aren’t fixed. The solution is not to do the exact same thing and saddle the state with even more debt. It’s this kind of thinking that got Michigan into trouble last time around.
The money is there to fix the roads. We need to use existing funds to invest in our roads and bridges. Over the last year my colleagues and I looked at ways we could use existing revenue to make repairs. We moved up funding from the 2015 road funding plan, and we paved the way for future revenue and measures to continue making updates where needed – all in a fiscally responsible way. The result was a record investment in the budget for roads and bridges, including a nearly $500 million increase using existing funds.
Sadly, Gov. Whitmer vetoed this extra funding. She took her red pen to rural hospitals, rural schools, skilled trades education, autism support services, veteran care, and more. Rural communities all over Michigan took a financial hit because the governor didn’t get her way. The pattern is difficult to ignore, and most people can see her motives for exactly what they are.
Unfortunately, rural Michigan is once again on the chopping block as the result of the governor’s executive actions. The governor’s bonding plan largely focuses on Southeast Michigan and does nothing to address funding for local roads in our district, despite sticking all taxpayers with the bill.
Despite the governor’s criticisms toward the Legislature, I remain committed to moving Michigan forward. We’ve now begun another budget season and my focus remains on getting our finances in order and funding important programs that so many Michiganders rely on. We’ve come a long way in Michigan. Now is not the time to turn back to the same irresponsible decisions that hurt us in the first place.
—Kevin Daley, 31st District State Senator