Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 16, 2014

George Weeks: Potholes on the campaign trail

‘Tis the season for the politics of potholes.

On March 7, the Michigan Democratic Party issued a biting press release headlined: “Dems Launch Campaign to Hold Governor Accountable for Pothole Epidemic, Failing to Fix the Roads.”

On the campaign trail, state Rep. Rudy Hobbs, D-Southfield, who is running for the seat that Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Oakland County is leaving to seek the Senate seat of retiring Carl Levin, said last week: “The issue has gone ignored and unresolved by our governor.”

Party Chairman Lon Johnson said: “Michigan spends the least amount per person on our roads and bridges in the entire country.” He said Gov. Rick Snyder “has given up on addressing this issue.”

Not exactly. Snyder has not ignored or given up on the issue. While Johnson is correct that Michigan lags, Snyder did not give up, despite failure last year of his effort, shot down by the GOP-controlled Legislature, to hike gas and diesel taxes to the equivalent of 33 cents per gallon and impose double-digit increases on vehicle registrations.

On March 7, The Detroit News headlined “Gov aims to use potholes as leverage” on a story that said he wanted to “prod lawmakers into dedicating more money into fixing roads.”

They did indeed. After bipartisan prods and lawmaker awareness of intense constituent concerns, the Legislature last week overwhelming approved a suppplemental budget that included $215 million for road projects. More is needed.

Lance Binoniemi, governmental affairs vice president for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, said: “We’re happy to see that when they have a little extra money they are making roads a priority, but we certainly don’t want anyone to think this solves the problem. We need 10 times more on an annual basis.”

A key player in what progress has been made is Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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