Michigan lawmakers preparing a small patch for our roads

Mar 12, 2014

Despite appearances, those who make our laws sometimes do listen to those who elect them. Here’s one example happening right now. Anyone who drives knows that our roads are in terrible shape.

Nobody remembers them ever being this bad, especially in major urban areas. But the Legislature has stubbornly ignored appeals from Gov. Rick Snyder to fix them.

In fact, a week or so ago, most of the Republicans were gung-ho to cut state income taxes instead. In terms of money back, this would have been utterly meaningless for all but the top one of two percent, and would have left the state with almost a billion dollars less every year to provide basic services.

Services they are already failing to adequately provide.

This provoked such an angry reaction that the tax-cutters are suddenly backing off, at least for now. By yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was saying “I think I’d rather put the money into the roads at this point. I wouldn’t mind waiting until we’re structurally sounder before we start giving money back.”

In other words, he doesn't want to be beaten up by angry constituents with broken axles.

In other words, he doesn’t want to be beaten up by angry constituents with broken axles. Currently the House and Senate are tussling over an appropriations bill that could include as much as $200 million in new money for road repairs.

That’s better than nothing, but is really just a drop in the pothole.

Transportation experts say we need to invest at least $1.2 billion a year for the next decade in order to prevent our roads from getting worse.

That’s how much the governor asked the lawmakers for last year, but led by Richardville, they essentially sneered at him.

If you don’t solve problems, they get worse. Sometimes I wonder to what extent our lawmakers ever talk to real people at all.

Last night, taking a cab from the airport, I met a young veteran named Tony, who was known in the Marines as Sergeant Al. The child of immigrants, he felt a need to give back to this country, so voluntarily served 12 years in the Marine Corps, including multiple combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Philadelphia native, he told me he moved to the Detroit area because one of his three best friends in the Corps lived here. The other two were killed in action.

Tony has a four-year-old son, and drives a cab while he waits to start his dream job as an officer with the Dearborn police force.

Transportation experts say we need to invest at least $1.2 billion a year for the next decade in order to prevent our roads from getting worse.

Money is tight for Tony, who is 35 and also takes care of his ailing mother. He married a woman he met overseas, but his wife is having green card problems, which adds stress. He has to maintain his vehicle, and some nights has a hard time even breaking even.

The last thing he needs is to have a tire or a wheel destroyed by a pothole.

Tony, who insisted on calling me sir, wanted me to know how much he loved this country. I told him I thought he had proven that.

I also think it’s about time our lawmakers prove they care about and appreciate the 10 million Tonys and Susies in this state as well.