A task force established by Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan legislature will have made its recommendations for funding road construction by the time this is published. The task force has examined a wide range of funding options.
Other parts of the country are using funding mechanisms other than the gas tax, such as privatization and public-private partnerships. Some have even gone so far as to sell roadways to foreign interests. Our roads are public assets and should remain in the public arena, under local, state and federal government control – the entities that are supposed to be concerned with the public’s interest. Selling our public assets to private interests, particularly foreign interests that may not have the American people’s best interests at heart, is a bad and potentially dangerous course to take.
Michigan has not had any experience with toll roads, and I believe it will be a tough sell to implement that. We are not a pass-through state, such as Ohio, so people come to Michigan for the purpose of visiting our state and I think it would be a mistake to charge them tolls for doing so.
Charging motorists for the miles they travel on Michigan roads would be costly and will take time to implement.
I believe that the best short-term solution to funding road construction is an increase in the gas tax. A long-term solution will still need to be developed. Gas tax revenues have been going down due to high gas prices, people driving less, and better fuel economy. However, we need something right now, and a gas tax increase is the quickest, most inexpensive way to inject money into our transportation network and get the roads fixed now.
Our economy is in trouble. The domestic automobile industry – the industry that has been the chief economic engine for our state and a very major industry for the United States for approximately 100 years – is on the brink of bankruptcy. We have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in this state in recent years and currently have the second highest unemployment rate in the nation. We need to do what we can to attract business to this state, keep business in this state and make this state a good place to conduct business in. Having a good transportation network is absolutely necessary to making that happen.
A small increase in the gas tax will create many good-paying construction jobs and will put our road network in top condition. Gas prices have been going up and down considerably and a 3-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase over three years (which has been proposed) will not even be seen by the motoring public. But, the politicians in Lansing, MI, have shied away from passing a gas tax increase, in part because they are afraid of a voter backlash for anything that has a “tax increase” label on it, even if it’s a tax increase that’s unnoticeable. We need leadership in Lansing that will take a stand and do the right thing.
It looks as though a second federal government stimulus package could happen sometime in the near future, and infrastructure funding could be part of that. This would be welcome news, particularly if a fair amount of that money found its way to Michigan.
I know that we’ve all heard this many times, but a good transportation network is vital to a prosperous economy. It’s how goods and people get from one place to another. If we allow the road system to deteriorate, we will be hindering the economic recovery that we so desperately need.
I’m hoping that the governor and the legislature will see that short-term and long-term solutions are needed for our transportation network in Michigan. A long-term solution that will provide a stable source of revenue for our transportation system for many years to come is definitely needed. Could that be a gas tax that’s indexed to inflation? Maybe. Again, that would probably take some political will to do that. Whatever the answer is, we need to keep our eye on the ball and make sure that whatever is done, is done with the intent to put our roads in top condition and help get our economy going again.