Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

May 23, 2014

Editorial: Lawmakers appear ready to finally fix state's roads

Step by step, Michigan lawmakers appear to be closing in on ways to come up with $1.5 billion or more per year to finally put the state’s disgraceful road system to rights.

It won’t be easy or cheap. Even lawmakers willing to pass tax hikes they think their constituents will support may find it hard to raise taxes on gasoline or vehicle registrations.

Not many of us profit from higher gas taxes; and who wants to pay more to put a license plate on their car?

But our brutal winter and the cold and rainy spring we’re experiencing have pushed our roads – and many taxpayers – to the breaking point.

A lot of people are mad as hell and will no longer sit back and watch their vehicles pounded into scrap on our rutted, potholed roads. They want something done about it and they’re willing to hold lawmakers accountable. And perhaps pay for the work.

For proof that lawmakers have gotten the message, look no further than the state Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, is seeking support for a plan to raise $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion a year by raising fuel taxes. The hikes would take effect over a four-year period, he said, “so we’re not going to hit people all at once.”

The state House recently voted to raise the 15-cents-a-gallon diesel tax to the equivalent of the 19-cent gasoline tax and to start calculating both on wholesale prices. If prices rise per-gallon taxes could increase by whatever is less: 1 cent, 5 percent or the annual change in highway construction costs.

There’s plenty of pushback in the Legislature to raising any taxes for any reason, but we’re past that. Plans to simply strip tax money from other pots just makes it someone else’s problem and likely won’t produce the revenue needed for a a real fix. Doing a halfway job would be as bad as doing nothing; we’ll be right back where we started in no time.

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