Opinion
4:36 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Dumb, complicated ideas floated to fix Michigan's roads

Pretty much everyone knows that our roads are in terrible shape, and need to be repaired.

However, at the same time, pretty much everyone also doesn’t want to pay to fix them.

We think somebody else should pay.

So far, Governor Rick Snyder has been the closest thing to a grownup on this issue. He reasons that those who use the roads, people otherwise known as drivers, should pay most of the cost.

That cost is pretty steep: Just to bring our existing roads back to acceptable condition will require $1.2 billion a year for at least the next ten years.

The governor proposes increasing the gas tax by nineteen cents a gallon on diesel fuel, fourteen cents on gasoline. This would be done at the wholesale level, which means the fuel companies wouldn’t necessarily have to pass them on to the consumer.

Okay, well, you’re allowed to laugh.

Snyder would also raise car registration fees by about 60 percent, and heavy truck plate charges by 25 percent.

Well, that plan seemed to bring people together: Everybody hated it.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is in the same party as the governor, but he had no interest in helping with his gas tax plan.

Instead, he said it was a “nonstarter.”

Now, I have been following the Michigan Legislature for a long time, and I knew no matter how bad the governor’s plan might have been, they would make it worse.

And they did.

The leading legislative plan to save the roads would punish the poor, threaten the schools, hurt the economy, and tax some people who never drive.

On top of that, what legislative Republicans want to do is so complicated I’m not sure I understand it.

What they’ve really done is to propose a sort of Rube Goldberg road funding machine.

Their model would work like this.

First, the state would end the sales tax on fuel.

Then, they’d hold a statewide referendum, possibly as early as May, to raise the state sales tax one cent. By the way, eliminating the sales tax on fuel is risky, because that money goes to the schools.

If they do that first, and the voters don’t pass the one percent sales tax increase, well, the schools are in trouble.

State Senator Roger Kahn says if the voters don’t go for that, they might extend the sales tax to services, or fiddle with the Real Estate transfer tax, or something.

Now, do you understand how all this would work?

I doubt it.

And I’m not convinced that anybody really knows how much revenue this would produce.

Then there is State Senator Patrick Colbeck of Canton, who says we can fix the roads without any extra money; all we have to do is wait for all the increased state revenue generated as a result of economic growth.

Rising tide lifts all boats, y’know.

Well, you know what?

I think the roads need to be fixed now, and I believe fervently in my ideology, which is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

So let’s figure out the best and easiest way to pay for fixing the roads in a way that will work, according to a formula we can all understand, even if it costs us something.

Doesn’t that sort of make sense?