Despite governor's pleas, long-term road fix looks unlikely in 2014

Jan 20, 2014

Michigan's roads are bad. But in an election year, raising taxes to pay for them isn't likely.
Michigan's roads are bad. But in an election year, raising taxes to pay for them isn't likely.
Credit user nirbhao / Flickr

State lawmakers return to Lansing this week with Gov. Rick Snyder’s policy goals for 2014 in hand. 

But few are optimistic they’ll be able to pass legislation to boost road and infrastructure funding before the November election.

Snyder has been urging the Legislature to boost infrastructure spending by more than $1 billion a year. But lawmakers say voters won’t support raising taxes or fees to pay for that kind of increase.

“We’re going to continue to make some strides. Are we going to get all the way there? No,” said state House Transportation Committee Chair Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

Schmidt says lawmakers will probably throw some one-time money at the problem in a stop-gap measure.

"We've put $350 million into roads...We're going to continue to do that. We're going to continue to hit some singles. Maybe the home run happens next year, I'm not sure."

“We’ve put $350 million into roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to continue to hit some singles. Maybe the home run happens next year, I’m not sure. But right now, any moneys we can put into transportation, we’re that much further ahead.”

Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), says the problem will keep getting more expensive to fix the longer lawmakers wait.

“We’re going to keep talking about the facts. And that fact is, it doesn’t fix itself,” said Steudle. “It’s got to get addressed. And we’re going to keep the pressure on to keep pushing.”

It is possible lawmakers will use part of a state budget surplus to help pay for road improvements.

Gov. Snyder says there should also be about $250 million in the budget this year for one-time transportation funding.