Fix the roads, because $4 billion a year isn’t enough.

October 28, 2015
Rep. Franz

Rep. Franz

Letter to the editor by State Representative Ray Franz (R-Onekema), Michigan House of Representatives 101st District.

Fix the roads!  That has been the mantra for the last couple of years, but in reality, it is been repeated for decades.  As they say, “you might be from Michigan if you have only two seasons: Winter and Construction.” It is the nature of living in a state with a high water table that freezes and thaws. Mostly it is an excuse to get more money, because apparently nearly $4 billion a year isn’t enough.

For the fourth time, the Michigan House of Representatives has passed a balanced approach to the “demand” for $1.2 billion in more road funding.  Half of that amount comes from general fund sources, half from new taxes and fees.  The additional funding will be split evenly between going directly to road construction and to the “top” of the transportation fund so that more money will go to empty busses, bike paths, and streetscapes – worthy items, but hardly roads.

There were several items I supported and some I did not.  I support requiring warranties for certain MDOT projects and competitive bidding for both state and local projects.  I did support new registration fees for all vehicles – especially hybrids, electric cars and heavy trucks.  They have an impact on our roads, too.

I also supported offsetting individuals’ increased fees with an increase in the Homestead Property Tax Credit (inflation adjusted) and a plan to decrease the state income tax for working families.  This should be a positive for many in Michigan.

I did not support the increase in gas tax and diesel parity for a couple of reasons.  First, while relatively small (3.3 cents/ gal) it is still a tax increase that families will pay each time they fill up the gas tank, and an added cost for workers just to get to their job.  It also places Michigan as one of the top gas tax states in the nation.  Besides, the massive defeat of Proposal 1 should count for something.  Secondly, and more importantly, the tax is inflation adjusted – that’s right folks – the tax rate goes up every year without a vote or any additional input, consideration or discussion by anyone.  Taxation without representation, if you will.  This puts the growth of transportation (and government) on autopilot.  Can you imagine if this precedent is applied to all taxes and fees?  Scary thought – not just for Halloween! In Massachusetts, a citizens’ initiative repealed their indexed gas tax by a wide margin despite being outspent 30 to 1 … in Massachusetts!  I simply could not accept unchecked growth in state taxing and spending.

This plan is phased in over five years, so as not to be such a big blow to family budgets or to flood the transportation construction industry with dollars – leading to waste.

Will this end the debate? Will it get approved by the Senate and the Governor?  I can’t speak for them, but I doubt that the House will accept any further new money demands.  As for ending the debate – like most areas of government – there is never enough.

 The Michigan House of Representatives 101st District covers Mason, Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau counties.

The opinions expressed in letters to the editors do not necessarily represent Media Group 31, LLC or its affiliates: Mason County Press, Manistee County Press, Oceana County Press.