Proposal calls for a strong foundation to build consensus and improve roads
LANSING — House Speaker Jase Bolger was joined by legislators as well as business, construction and union representatives today as he unveiled a House plan to “Build Better Michigan Roads,” a new proposal for structural changes in transportation funding in Michigan.
With a focus on increased efficiency, better quality and improved fairness, the proposal provides for increasing investment in Michigan’s roadways that reaches a minimum of $500 million annually for roads from these changes, almost entirely from current resources.
Bolger was joined at the announcement by state Reps. Mike McCready and Wayne Schmidt, chair of the House Transportation Committee. Also attending were representatives from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council and Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.
“You don’t build a house by starting with the roof nor do you build a road by starting with lane markings — you need to lay a strong foundation first,” said Bolger, R-Marshall. “This proposal creates a foundation upon which better roads can be built. It also offers a solid base that further solutions could be built upon.
“After our roads had been neglected for too many years, we have led the way with one-time investments in roads for each of the past three years; now it’s time to make structural changes that will continue and build upon that trend. This proposal does not provide the full $1.2 billion needed annually to stay on top of Michigan’s road needs but it is a great start for funding and an even better foundation for further improvement.
The proposal includes four areas of focus:
- More competitive bidding for local road agencies, including allowing townships to require bidding on projects they help fund
- Requiring MDOT to competitively bid services of entire regions
- Improving efficiencies in MDOT procedures
- Requiring all road work to have appropriate warranties
- Requiring all large projects to have a minimum 5-year warranty
- Beginning use of innovative contracting methods such as Performance Based Maintenance Contracting
Improved Fairness ($76.5 million more for roads in FY15)
- Repealing the 15-cent per gallon diesel tax and replacing it with a 6-percent wholesale tax, which provides for parity with unleaded gasoline. (At $4 per gallon, it would dedicate an additional $47 million to roads.)
- Increasing overweight/oversize permit fees
- Simplifying the vehicle registration code to close loopholes for special deals
- Applying the newly purchased vehicle value upon transferring a license plate
Investing Current Resources ($379 million dedicated to roads in FY15)
- Repealing the 19-cent per gallon gas tax and replacing it with a 6-percent wholesale tax (At $3.55 per gallon that would be revenue neutral but it provides a better base for the future.)
- Permanently dedicating all available dollars of state sales tax on fuel to roads while preserving all dollars that currently go to schools and local government
- Permanently dedicating 1-percent of the existing state Use Tax to roads while preserving all dollars that currently go to schools and local governments
Bolger said Michigan’s hard-working families have been clear in their messages to their elected leaders.
“They demand we fix the roads by looking to our existing resources first, make road funding more fair when it comes to trucks, and improve efficiency and quality of our road building projects. We have listened to the hard-working men and women of Michigan, and this plan meets all of those requests.
“For the past 20 years or more, people have been unwilling to address this problem because they could not come up with a full solution. The ‘all or nothing’ approach has done nothing but give us potholes and crumbling streets in nearly all areas of the state. Governor Snyder has been leading the charge for a road solution. While this may not be everything everyone wanted, I believe this is a great start. It’s time to put a plan in place and deliver action to Michigan drivers. This proposal should provide an opportunity to provide that action in a bipartisan way. I urge all members of the House of Representatives to seek the input of the people in their districts during their in-district work period and return to Lansing ready to work for better roads for our communities.”
Ari B. Adler