State's new road funding plan is not a real solution

[The following is an Oakland Press editorial by Jeremy Moss]

The one consistent question I’ve heard from constituents since being elected to public office in 2011 is “When are you going to fix the roads?”

When I was on the Southfield City Council, we solved that problem. In 2014, I voted to place a road improvement proposal on the ballot and joined with 65 percent of Southfield voters in supporting it. It is a simple and direct proposal that invests $99 million to fix the roads in nearly every Southfield neighborhood under the city’s jurisdiction. And as soon as it was approved, road construction in Southfield began throughout the city.

Since taking office as State Representative earlier this year, however, I’ve watched the House Republican leadership bungle proposal after proposal to fix the roads under the state’s jurisdiction.

Legislators – Democrat and Republican alike – agree that the job will cost at least $1.2 billion each year. Finding a way to come up with that $1.2 billion annually has been the point of contention.

You may have heard that the governor recently signed a road funding plan into law. This plan, sponsored and backed by Republicans, isn’t a real solution to our road funding crisis.

The plan relies on an irresponsible $800 million in unspecified cuts from the already stressed General Fund — a plan that isn’t even full implemented until fiscal year 2021.

The $800 million in reckless budget cuts risk slashing the funding that the state shares with local units of government that is used to fix local roads. This illogic tells Michigan residents that maybe the main road in their city will be fixed by 2021, but the state has impaired their city’s ability to fix the local road that takes them to the main road.

These cuts could also come from community and mental health programs, higher education, public safety or money that supports local governments and communities. Michigan residents don’t want to trade a pothole in their road for a pothole in the state budget.

And instead of a implementing responsible stream of revenue to fix roads, this plan relies on vehicle registration fee hikes and tax increases at the pump – all while giving generous income tax breaks that benefit Michigan’s wealthiest residents.

I didn’t vote for this plan. I recognized it was a sham, not a solution.

House Democrats offered the opportunity to create a genuine road funding plan that would raise the funds to fix our roads immediately, instead of allowing them to crumble until 2021. We said, let’s rethink the massive tax shift Republicans enacted in 2011 - which has increased individual income taxes by more than 25 percent, while big corporations are paying 90 percent less. Corporations ought to kick in a portion of those savings in order to pay for repairs to the roads and bridges their businesses depend on.

Sadly, Republicans refused to vote on our ideas and wouldn’t even give them a committee hearing. They decided it would be their way or the highway, but in this case, the highway isn’t going to get fixed for some time to come.

Your family deserved better than this. I know you’re tired of driving down pothole-strewn roads that knock your car’s wheels out of alignment, break down tires prematurely and chip windshields when sections of the crumbling road break loose. As someone who regularly drives between Southfield and Lansing, I’m tired of them too. And I’m disappointed that the Republicans who lead our Legislature forced this “solution” on us rather than listening to ideas that would actually work.

Lansing could learn a lesson or two about the way our local City Councils around Oakland County operate – providing real solutions with direct results. Your family deserves this kind of problem-solving representation and I will continue to work hard to make sure our values are heard in the State Legislature.

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