Soon-to-retire Grand Traverse County road commission manager Jim Cook wrote a forum piece this week on some legislation that flew through the lame duck Legislature this week.
On its face, Senate Bill 637 incentivizes companies to install infrastructure for faster, 5G wireless connectivity. It does this by capping lease rates at $20 for the space the infrastructure needs on public power poles.
Cook called it a “ a thinly veiled land grab by the telecoms — at the expense of taxpayers — and, for some reason, many legislators seem willing to let it happen.”
He brought up the bill’s subsidy aspects — the costs of the road commissions will far outweigh the $20 charge (many charge $1,250 per pole) and questioned the public good, as the bill doesn’t obligate the companies to provide the service in rural areas where it’s needed and the companies will likely charge people lots more than $20 for the privilege of using it.
We see this as another in a line of pass-down cost measures, where burdens move from bigger bodies to small, i.e. the shoulders of the individual Michigan residents. And the money itself moves away from small bodies to large, i.e. the state and for-profit corporations.
Shifting costs has been a well-used technique; just look at the shifting revenue sharing from schools and municipalities to fix the state budget at the expense of the already mentioned.
Capital News Service reports that statutory revenue sharing — Michigan’s constitution calls for about one-seventh of sales tax revenues to fund statutory revenue shares but that amount can be tinkered with through legislative appropriations — fell by 61 percent from 2002 to 2016.
Education spending has fluctuated, and while grand totals of money spent on K-12, community colleges, and university education went from $15.3 billion in 2011 to $16.1 billion in 2017, the increase hasn’t kept up with inflation nor healed from federal monies lost and state cuts made in 2012, according to the Detroit Free Press.
You may have noticed the influx in your property taxes and millage asks, in fundraising letters and pleas for Kleenex in your child’s backpack, or gotten caught in tuition hikes and the ballooning student loan debt crisis. You may have tried to access state services that are no longer available.
We’re not advocating that local public bodies gouge telecoms — that wouldn’t be fair either. But we think wireless companies should pay what it really costs to house and inspect the products they’re charging us for.
SB 637 sets a policy where costs aren’t being paid by the companies or their customers, but are given to all of us state taxpayers as a group, no matter our carrier, no matter our service, no matter if we use flip phones, smart phones or rotary-dial landlines.
Let’s keep choice and market in the equation, and have companies pay a fair price for the public services they use.