mybaycity.mmcctech.net April 15, 2019
Columns Article 11508

HOPE FOR ROAD FIXES; Local Decision-Making Proposed

April 15, 2019
By: Dave Rogers


Solutions to Michigan's deterorating roads remain fuzzy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This corner, for one, is heartened by a new proposal that would shift funding decisions to local governments.

Borrowing money is possible, but many Lansing officials tell Bridge Magazine they are thinking bigger: Higher sales taxes, property tax reforms, income tax changes to make the wealthier pay more or other tax increases to address other Michigan problems beyond roads.

"I think it's a good time for a lot of things," said state Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance. "I don't think anything"s off the table."

Sheppard said he prefers a 1 penny increase in the sales tax, from 6 to 7 cents, with the additional amount dedicated to roads.

County roads stripe Michigan's vast land from the southern border with Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula. They carry millions of people daily to work, school, stores and tourist destinations, and are vital to maintaining a vibrant Michigan economy.

County road agencies are responsible for maintaining, plowing, preserving and reconstructing those 90,000 miles of county roads, along with 5,700 local bridges. It is a monumental task as a decades-long shortfall in appropriate funding has left most roads and bridges eligible in either "fair" or "poor" condition. County road agencies are bolstered by a 2015 bill passed by the Legislature that calls for $1.2 billion in funding by 2021. Not all of those dollars are allocated to county road agencies and the $1.2 billion figure is about half of what industry experts suggest is needed to improve roads. Nonetheless, it will help stem the declining condition of roads throughout the state.>

Road agencies also received some unexpected revenue in the form of $175 million in surplus General Fund dollars that the governor and Legislature allocated to roads in April 2018. An additional one-time $300 million has been added to the 2019 state transportation budget, some of it targeted to county roads and bridge.

"We're not trying to make this an urban-versus-rural issue," one leader he said, 'although we know it's quickly going to go there." Six big proposals in Gretchen Whitmer's first Michigan budget.

One solution that concerns taxpayers is Gretchen Whitmers" plan to fix Michigan roads: Nearly triple gas tax

Most agree Michigan's atrocious roads need fixing. And most realize the price tag is in the billions of dollars.

The big question: How do you raise that kind of money?

Just days ahead of the March 5 roll-out of her first budget, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer isn't revealing her plans, teasing a Detroit Regional Chamber crowd that everyone wants to know how she'll "fix the damn roads."

Borrowing money is possible, but many Lansing officials tell Bridge Magazine they are thinking bigger: Higher sales taxes, property tax reforms, income tax changes to make the wealthier pay more or other tax increases to address other Michigan problems beyond roads.

"I think it's a good time for a lot of things," said state Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance. --I don't think anything's off the table."

Sheppard said he prefers a 1 penny increase in the sales tax, from 6 to 7 cents, with the additional amount dedicated to roads.

State Sen. Peter Lucido, a Republican from Shelby Township in Macomb County, introduced two bills that would keep gas taxes and vehicle registration fees in the county where they originate.

Lucido, who supports revisiting the local-state funding distribution, said these road-funding decisions are best left to local governments, not the state.

"Let the counties make the disbursements where they feel the roads are the worst, he said.

Some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint, said they're willing to wait to talk about how the money is divided until after the state secures enough money to fix the roads.



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