Michigan’s roads need to be addressed by state Legislature

Right now, our roads are crumbling as our state lawmakers do what politicians do best: continue to debate with no resolution in sight.

But the problem is, there’s a deadline in sight, and it’s coming up pretty quickly.

The Great Lakes State needs $2.5 billion to fix the roads, and at this point, it seems legislators on both sides of the aisle can’t seem to find common ground. It’s an unfortunate situation for Michigan motorists, and where that money comes from is still up in the air.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer nearly six months ago presented a plan that calls for a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike. Republicans rejected that, and have reportedly provided Whitmer with some sort of plan but have refused to disclose the details of that proposal to the public, according to The Associated Press.

While that proposal remains largely unknown, the AP reports Whitmer has criticized Republicans’ ideas such as effectively shifting sales tax collected at the pump to road funding — much of the $840 million in revenue now goes to schools — and delaying the date to pay off unfunded liabilities in the school employees’ retirement fund.

Whitmer said she will not sign a budget unless it includes a “real fix” to significantly boost spending on roads and public education, according to a recent AP story. But Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, countered.

“This is a fabricated crisis by my governor to try to tie in roads to the budget. … We will supply a budget to the governor. It will have record spending both for education and additional funding for roads,” Shirkey said in the AP report.

At least some House Democrats are calling Whitmer’s plan dead in the water, noting the majority Republicans’ opposition to it. Meanwhile, the House Dems in June unveiled a $1.2 billion proposal that would increase the state’s corporate tax, create a new 6-cents-a-mile tax for heavy trucks and charge bridge tolls to tractor-trailers. It also includes portions of Whitmer’s budget plan, such as raising taxes on certain businesses so they are taxed the same as traditional corporations and restoring tax breaks for pensioners.

Oct. 1, just one month away now, is the deadline for lawmakers to pass a spending plan for the next fiscal year.

We hope whatever our legislators propose and the governor adopts achieves what it’s supposed to do: finally fix the roads.

Budgeting at the state level oftentimes feels like a “Rob Peter to pay Paul” scenario, where money that was once designated for one purpose is reallocated for another. Exactly how the money to fix our roads is found seems uncertain, but one thing is clear — Michigan ranks second to last nationally in per-capita road spending, and our roads are in bad shape.

That much needs to change.