Spinal Column: Senate Republicans are Fixing MI Roads with a comprehensive, long-term solution

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Michigan families are keenly aware of the difference between the condition of our roads and those of our neighboring states.

Having adequate funding for roads and bridges is about ensuring the safety of everyone on our roads, protecting drivers from potholes and costly car repairs, and competing for jobs in an economy increasingly dependent on the efficient transportation of goods.

Michigan’s infrastructure problem is huge, but Senate Republicans have devised a solution to address it, known as the Fixing MI Roads initiative.

Our plan is a fiscally responsible, long-term solution to meeting our infrastructure needs.

We start with placing a greater priority in the budget on fixing our roads. We are making sure gas and diesel tax revenue goes toward fixing our roads, and we are requiring $700 million from income tax revenue goes toward our infrastructure — every year — at the beginning of the budget process.

At the root of our roads problem is that Michigan’s roads and bridges have been underfunded for decades. According to a recent Senate Fiscal Agency report, Michigan ranks dead last in the nation for per-person annual spending on maintaining transportation infrastructure.

As a result, Michigan has the highest percentage of bridges rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete among all of the Great Lakes states.

Under the Fixing MI Roads solution, coupled with smarter budgeting, the state income tax will lower and the gas and diesel tax will rise modestly in three phases.

The state’s gas and diesel taxes would increase by five cents beginning this October and again in January 2016 and January 2017. When fully phased in, this would generate $800 million.

The impact for residents at the pump would be minimal. Importantly, revenue from the gas and diesel tax would go to fixing, maintaining and improving our roads and bridges.

To help Michigan families, we created a system to automatically reduce our state’s personal income tax every time General Fund growth exceeds the rate of inflation — putting money directly back in the pockets of taxpayers.

It is not just about funding. Any long-lasting solution must be comprehensive to succeed.

Fixing MI Roads includes reforms to reduce the cost of repairs without sacrificing quality and safety, ensure the bidding for infrastructure projects is more competitive and protect taxpayers by demanding that road work is warrantied to last.

If we expect to fix our roads and bridges, we have to invest in the solution.

Our solution strikes a balance between reprioritizing resources and guaranteeing that revenue is dedicated to roads.

Everyone knows that Michigan’s roads and bridges are in terrible shape and will continue to get worse without a long-term course of action to address the problem.

I am committed to working with my colleagues and the governor to end decades of frustration and enact a long-term solution that finally fixes Michigan’s roads.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.