Traverse City Record-Eagle


January 18, 2013

Editorial: Road plan may not gain traction

Gov. Rick Snyder was absolutely right Wednesday when he said Michigan must find the political will to finally approve tax and fee increases needed to raise an additional $1.2 billion a year to patch up Michigan's ailing roads and bridges.

But just as he has for the past two years, Snyder wants to put most of that burden on average Michigan residents and families, who would pay more at the pump and more to register their cars at the state level; local governments would also gain the right to raise registration fees even higher to pay for local road repairs.

Snyder has said rebuilding the state's road infrastructure — at an estimated cost of $120 per car per year — would also be a good business investment; but he hasn't asked business to kick in its fair share.

Michigan's retail-level motor fuels tax — 19 cents a gallon for gasoline and 15 cents for diesel fuel — hasn't changed since 1997. Simply closing the gasoline/diesel gap would help equalize the burden, since most diesel is used by the trucking industry.

Snyder could have asked businesses, which have gained so much in his first two years — elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, the phaseout of the personal property tax on industrial equipment and elimination of about 1,000 regulations — to invest in our infrastructure, but he didn't.

He also didn't address the issue of truck weights, which must be resolved in any serious effort to fix roads and bridges.

Michigan allows trucks up to 164,000 pounds, more than twice the 80,000-pound limit of any other state. Defenders say that because Michigan requires more axles on trucks carrying that much, they don't do "disproportionately" more damage than lighter loads. But 11 axles simply means a pothole gets run over 11 times per truck. And to the state's hundreds of crumbling bridges, it still feels like 164,000 pounds.

Any plan that involves raising any tax is probably not going anywhere. Snyder tried to rally lawmakers to "get the job done," but it seems unlikely those facing re-election campaigns in 2014 will risk their jobs.

And after last month's right-to-work fiasco, Snyder surely can't depend on the Democrats. His semi-apology Wednesday for how things went down — "I wish it hadn't happened," he said — surely didn't restore his credibility.

Snyder did make calls for a few needed reforms, including:

n Reforming campaign finance reporting so there's more transparency about donors and more frequent reporting.

n Allowing online voter registration and "no-reason" absentee voting.

n Creating programs to boost dental care for children and early childhood education.

If Snyder hopes the roads plan will be a legacy, he'll likely be disappointed — as will we all.

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