Tonight is Governor Snyder’s 3rd State of the State address and there are rumors flying around town that road funding is going to be a big part of his address. I, for one, certainly hope so.
Now, I’m not a guy who likes to pay taxes. In fact, the reason I’ve identified myself with the GOP since I was 15 years old is due to the fact that I don’t like taxes and I don’t like government spending. I’m the type of guy who believes that government should do only what people can’t do individually or collectively.
You know …things like providing for an Army and a Navy; things like roads.
Putting aside the fact that I do sit on the Kalamazoo County Road Commission, I’ve been dealing with transportation most of my professional life. I served as the Transportation Policy adviser for former Michigan House Speakers Rick Johnson and Craig DeRoche. I was the Deputy Chief of Staff/Legislative Director for former State Senator (and Senate Transportation Chair) Jud Gilbert. I used to work for the Michigan Municipal League (MML) as their main transportation associate. On top of this, I’ve driven an 80 mile commute from Kalamazoo to Lansing and back 5 days a week for almost the last 14 years. I have a pretty good understanding of transportation in Michigan.
Michigan’s transportation system is funded by a $.19/gallon gas tax, a $.15/gallon diesel tax, vehicle registration fees (the tabs you put on your license plate), and some federal funds. All total, about $3.1 billion is raised and spent on transportation annually.
That sounds like a lot of money! It is … but here’s the problem. It takes over $4 billion to fix the 120,000 miles of roads in Michigan, 32% of which currently are in poor condition.
It’s easy to say that government is wasting money and that’s why the roads are in bad condition. It’s easy to say that Washington DC is sending enough federal transportation funding back to us to fix our roads. But the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1997 and inflation impacts the cost of materials and construction.
And if you think about it, you’re probably already paying the same amount of money in car repairs than you would in paying an increased fuel taxes or vehicle registration fees. The average driver in Michigan pays about $357 annually in unnecessary repairs. Replacing tires, struts, shocks, rims, brakes, et al is going to become more frequent as our roads and our bridges get worse. Over the long run, investing more in our roads now through the increase in gas taxes will actually save money.
So as you listen to what the Governor has to say tonight, please keep an open mind. Roads in Michigan are used by everyone, Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians and non-political folk alike. They’re used by the poor, by the middle class, and the rich. And if we don’t pay for them … we are going to find it difficult to make Michigan the place where people will want to work, build a business, raise a family, and live.
You can find more facts about Michigan’s road situation by visiting: http://justfixtheroads.com/