Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan legislature should implement two reports which would create thousands of jobs and give that state's economy a badly needed infusion of billions of dollars in new revenue, says a leader in that state’s construction industry.
S. Evan Weiner, chief operating officer of the Edw. C. Levy Co. which for more than 90 years has been one of the state’s top integrated construction materials companies, said that in the torrents of words written about Michigan's crisis-ridden economy, little has been said about a possible transfusion that could help alleviate the state's financial trauma.
He said the possible lifeline comes from of a study produced by a committee appointed by Gov. Granholm --the Transportation Funding Task Force (TF2) -- which in its recommendations pointed out that if the state were to invest $3 billion annually in its transportation infrastructure, that would create 126,000 jobs and yield $15-l8 billion in other economic benefits.
In reaching this conclusion, TF2 pointed out that Michigan is woefully under-funding its transportation infrastructure and if that problem were not solved, deterioration of the infrastructure would increase dramatically. Also, if the state were to do nothing, it would lose $1 billion a year in federal funding because transportation agencies will no longer be able to afford to provide the local match for federal dollars to which Michigan is entitled.
The TF2 report makes several recommendations to increase transportation funding, including:
- increasing Michigan's gas and diesel taxes
- converting the fixed-rate tax to a percentage of the fuel sales price
- adjusting registration and other fees
- allowing local-option transportation funding
- introducing various reform measures
The TF2 report was followed by an economic stimulus plan from the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA). This plan also outlines very specific financial proposals to rescue the state's transportation infrastructure that includes roads, bridges, transit, and airports.
While the MITA plan would cost Michigan drivers an average of $12 per month in additional user fees, providing a $1.5 billion annual investment in infrastructure would save the average driver $250 per year in improved safety, $300 per year in vehicle maintenance costs, and $450 per year in personal income. Thus, for $12 per month in fees, the average driver could enjoy savings of about $1,000 a year.
In addition, MITA said the plan would save more than 4.5 million hours of commuting time; reduce harmful emissions, and cut gas consumption by three million gallons. It would also save 1,400 lives and prevent 10,000 injuries.
Weiner said the TF2 report and MITA's plan issued last month, have received little attention. The media have given them little coverage and reaction from the Lansing powers-to-be has been minimal.
"Here is a chance to assist Michigan's ailing economy by putting people to work and upgrading the state's transportation infrastructure. The opportunity cannot and must not be lost," said Weiner, adding:
"The members of TF2 and MITA, after extensive study, have proposed very comprehensive and responsible recommendations.
"Given the present fiscal environment, it is imperative that the governor and legislature immediately consider the recommendations in these reports, and they should do so with a sense of urgency.
"Democrats and Republicans must set aside partisanship in the interest of decisive and meaningful action. Whatever differences these proposals may engender can be worked out by people who come to the negotiating table with goodwill and a desire to help Michigan's ailing economy.
"The economy of Michigan is too fragile for Lansing lawmakers to ignore the economic benefits of the two reports' proposals. We cannot wait. The current lame duck session of the Legislature must act.
"It would be inexcusable to ignore plans that could put people to work and give the state a much needed economic boost. Indeed, it would be unforgivable."