Lawmakers like to talk about sex more than they like to talk about potholes

May 15, 2014

I have a confession to make. I really am not very interested in your sex life, and see no reason you should be interested in mine. However, I am very interested in not being killed by a giant pothole, or concrete falling off an overpass. And somehow, I’d guess you feel the same way. I just wish our lawmakers did.

Today, the University of Michigan is releasing a new study showing that our model of funding road repairs based on how much gas is sold is out of date.

Cars get much better mileage today. Besides, I could drive 10,000 miles in my tiny little Fiat, and do far less damage to the roads than an overloaded, gravel-hauling tractor-trailer would do covering half that distance.

You don’t need to be Isaac Newton to figure that out. The report suggests getting money to fix the roads by setting a mileage fee.

That, to quote it directly, "Could more fairly allocate costs based on the number of miles driven, the time of day, the route taken and the weight of the vehicle.”

That seems straightforward enough. So let’s do it.

You might think the greatest problem would be the trucking interests, who won’t want to pay their fair share for pounding our roads into rubble. But you’d be wrong.

Oh, that would be a problem. But the bigger one would be inertia.

One of the authors of this report told the Detroit Free Press said she hopes we might move to such a system in five or ten years. By that time, a standard pickup line may be, “Hey, that’s a nice-looking broken axle.”

Sadly, our legislative leaders don’t want to be bothered with the roads right now, partly because they just discovered the budget surplus they thought they had has largely gone up in smoke. They now have to figure out how to pay for the small amount of road repairs they promised. You have to realize that in today’s nutty ideological world, asking voters to pay extra for the rising costs of a service everyone desperately needs would be seen as treason.

Lawmakers can’t ask voters to pay their fair share, or concentrate on anything real and controversial. So, instead, they’ve turned to sex. A state senate committee congratulated itself yesterday after unanimously approving some bills to protect minors from human trafficking, and more severely punishing their clients.

One of Bill Schuette’s assistant attorney generals said, “If you are going to buy sex from someone under 18, you need to be prepared to pay a price,” as in, a felony conviction.

That gave one state senator from Battle Creek pause. Mike Nofs said, ah, what about “the 17-year-old who looks like a 22 or 23-year-old.”  No doubt about it; this could be a problem for some men.

Glad to know our lawmakers are worried about it. No one defends sex trafficking or the exploitation of children. However, being against these things is politically easy.

Our lawmakers find making the necessary decision to ask for more taxes for the roads too hard. That’s something you might think about when you are deciding how to vote this year. 

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.