It took years of deterioration and the hardest winter in a generation, but Michigan legislators are finally facing up to the reality of the state’s woefully inadequate road and highway funding system. That’s good, but no one should be fooled into thinking that the new funding plan proposed in Lansing this month comes anywhere near to fixing Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure.
The plan introduced by House Speaker Jase Bolger would generate at least $456 million in additional revenue for Michigan roads every year through 2018 through a complicated set of tax shifts. Among the key points:
n The existing 19-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax and the 15-cents-a-gallon levy on diesel fuel would be repealed, and replaced with a 6 percent wholesale tax.
n The 6 percent sales tax on fuel, which now goes into the state’s general fund, would go entirely to road funding, except for the money reserved for schools and local governments.
n 1 percent of the state use tax, paid primarily by businesses, would be dedicated to road funding.
The Bolger plan has some laudable elements. It would be fairer than the existing system because it finally taxes gasoline and diesel fuel equally. Further, it would increase permit fees on overweight and oversize trucks, which do the most damage to the state’s roads. We also like the idea of requiring contractors to provide warranties of at least five years on the roads they build.
The problem is that the new funding system doesn’t go nearly far enough. Gov. Snyder has called for an additional $1.2 billion a year to bring Michigan roads and highways up to good condition; the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association pegs the annual need at an extra $2 billion. Under the Bolger plan, our roads will continue to get worse and our state will fall further behind on maintenance and upkeep, albeit at a somewhat slower rate. This treatment would slow the bleeding, but wouldn’t bring the patient back to health.