road funding

Gov. Rick Snyder
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Gov. Rick Snyder says there’s no backup plan to boost road funding if voters reject a sales tax increase in May.

Snyder urged listeners to vote “yes” on the measure during an appearance on Michigan Public Radio’s statewide call-in program “Michigan Calling.”

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

Proposal 1 is the road funding proposal that will be up for a vote on May 5th. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has long expressed their support for a road funding solution, but they are staying neutral on the proposal.

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This week, Jack Lessenberry and Zoe Clark talk about headlines that marked the end of the beginning for some major Michigan issues. Ballot language for the roads funding bill, school money to fill the budget gap, and GOP officials with criminal records are all stories that look like they’re just getting started. 


Twenty-one years ago, Michigan voters drastically changed the way public education is funded by adopting what we still call Proposal A. That shifted much of the burden of paying for the schools from each local community to the state itself.

And to do that, voters raised the sales tax from 4% to 6%. Now, on May 5th, they’ll be asked to raise the sales tax another penny to fix our disintegrating roads.

The I-96/23 Interchange only approximates a "Thunderdome." To find the real thing, you would, of course, have to go Burning Man.
Matthew Gordon / Flickr

The I-96/US 23 highway interchange can be like Thunderdome - two cars enter, one car leaves.

But that's about to change.

MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) is set to make what it calls "major safety and operational improvements" to how cars and trucks merge and exit the two major highway systems next month.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

  LANSING, Mich. (AP) - As Michigan readies for a vote on raising taxes to smooth a deteriorating network of roads, one reason is because it's contending with the reality that federal money for the projects is down.

About $1 billion from the Federal Highway Trust Fund was made available to Michigan in 2013. That's 8 percent less than five years earlier and 15 percent less when adjusted for inflation, according to figures compiled by the Associated Press.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's elections director has released proposed wording of a road funding ballot proposal asking voters if they want to increase the state sales tax.

Chris Thomas published his proposed language Friday. The Board of State Canvassers will meet next week to determine the constitutional amendment's wording in the May 5 special election.

Budget tiles
Simon Cunningham / Flickr

Each Thursday, we talk to Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Today, we take a look at Governor Snyder's budget priorities and the lingering question of how Michigan will fund its road improvements.

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

This week, Jack Lessenbery and Zoe Clark discuss some consequences of governing under a deadline. Gov. Rick Snyder’s 11th hour plan to fix Michigan’s infrastructure won support from legislators last month, but this week, the measure is hitting some potholes.


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Some state lawmakers want to give voters an alternative to the May 5th ballot proposal to boost funding for roads. That measure would raise the sales tax from six percent to seven percent.

State Representative Anthony Forlini wants to pass a backup plan to raise the money. It would only take effect if voters reject the sales tax increase.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder says he has faith the public will approve a May ballot proposal to boost road funding. That’s despite a recent study from a Michigan State University researcher that said the measure might already be in trouble.

The proposal would raise the state’s sales tax from six percent to seven percent. It would increase funding for roads, schools, and local governments.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to start signing bills Monday as part of a package to boost state road funding. The legislation is contingent on a May ballot question that would raise Michigan’s sales tax from six percent to seven percent.

If voters approve the plan, the new revenue is expected to raise more than $1 billion for roads and infrastructure, $300 million for schools, $130 million for mass transit, and almost $100 million for local governments every year.

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This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss some of 2014's top political stories. Funding for road repairs, Detroit's bankruptcy case and gay marriage all made headlines in Michigan this year.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A proposed tax hike aimed at improving Michigan's transportation infrastructure and schools is heading to voters.

  The Michigan Legislature has put a sales tax increase on the May statewide ballot as part of a road funding plan.

Michigan lawmakers want you to decide on roads.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders have struck a deal on road funding.

After many, many closed-door meetings, the announcement was made at a news conference at the Capitol.

To get to more than $1 billion in funding, the centerpiece of the plan is an increase in the state sales tax. It’s something voters would have to decide in a ballot question in May.

Snyder says that’s OK with him.

Listen to our conversation with Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark below.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A group of semi-truck drivers made some noise Tuesday outside the state Capitol.

Several 18-wheelers circled the building with horns blaring to protest legislation that would increase fines and fees for overweight vehicles. It’s likely to be part of a compromise plan to increase funding to fix Michigan’s roads.

State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says too many lawmakers are blaming truckers for poor road conditions.

“What are some of the folks here doing? They’re pointing fingers at them as if they’re the problem – and, ‘Go get ‘em!’ I think they’re frustrated with that and I think they’ve had enough,” said Casperson.

Repair trucks on a Michigan road.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

It appears there hasn’t been much progress toward finding a way to boost state road funding in the Legislature’s “lame duck” session.

Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders met early on Monday to try to get the discussions rolling in the Legislature’s final week in 2014.

State Senator Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is taking steps to hammer out a road funding compromise in the final days of its 2014 session.

The House and Senate passed plans that are drastically different. The Senate approved legislation that would essentially double the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements. The House plan would divert revenues from schools and local governments and would not raise any taxes.

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Governor Rick Snyder says a plan adopted by the state House to shift sales taxes collected on fuel sales to roads won’t work. He says that could rob schools and local governments of money they need to operate.

The state House passed the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) yesterday and it’s fair to say it was a little dose of Republican Speaker Jase Bolger’s “here’s-how-bad-it-can-get-if-you-don’t-play-along.”

The RFRA was supposed to move in tandem with a measure that would add protections based on sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. That was a version that Bolger said he would accept, as long as there was a separate bill that would provide some cover for people who have religious objections to gay rights.

But LGBT advocates said there also should be explicit protections for transgender people. Bolger said he wouldn’t support that.

So, Bolger got the RFRA passed last night, without moving on the LGBT protections, showing the LGBT community just what can happen when you cross him.

User _chrisUK / flickr.com

The state House has passed a $1.2 billion plan to boost road funding without raising taxes and instead using money that would otherwise go to schools and local governments.

A bill approved Thursday night by the Republican-led chamber would gradually eliminate the 6 percent sales tax at the pump and gradually increase per-gallon fuel taxes.

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State lawmakers return to Lansing this week after a two week break for deer hunting and Thanksgiving.

Every Republican and Democratic leader at the state Capitol says fixing Michigan’s roads will be the top priority between now and the end of the year.

“Certainly, the primary focus will be on discovering a solution for funding of transportation in Michigan, specifically roads and bridges that are in desperate need of repair,” said Ari Adler, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

Adler says the speaker wants more taxes paid at the pump to go to roads.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING (AP) - Michigan lawmakers have three weeks left in their lame-duck session to enact a potentially wide-ranging assortment of bills, topped by a measure to significantly boost road funding.

  The Republican-led Senate's recent approval of a bill to more than double state gasoline and diesel taxes over four years faces an "uphill climb" in the GOP-controlled House, says Speaker Jase Bolger. He's floating an alternative to gradually eliminate the state sales tax at the pump while raising per-gallon fuel taxes a corresponding amount.

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More money for roads. It’s being debated again in Lansing. Right now there’s talk about more than $1 billion a year to improve the state’s roads and bridges.

But Chris Kolb of the Michigan Environmental Council wants to make sure there’s money for mass transit: reliable buses and rail lines. As of now, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about improving mass transit. Listen to our interview with Chris Kolb below:


Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are considering multiple plans that would significantly increase state road funding. The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would raise the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements.

But state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says they could still try to pass a plan that would raise the state’s sales tax.

“We may look to change the sales tax. And that may be a better way to fix the structural problem that we know exists at the pump already,” Richardville told reporters on Thursday.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week voters in four out of five counties approved special millages to fix and maintain local roads.

Road funding has been a hot topic the last few elections as state lawmakers struggle to come up with a way to fund road repairs.

County Road Association of Michigan Director Denise Donahue says more local governments are asking voters for dedicated road millages.

Almost two years ago, I spoke to a group called CRAM, the County Road Association of Michigan. These are the folks who maintain Michigan’s streets and highways, both urban and rural.

I found these folks mainly had frustrating professional lives, trying to do too much with too few resources and being blamed for problems they weren’t being given enough money to fix.

Yesterday, however, some pundits may have been startled when their political action group, RUSH-PAC, announced it was endorsing Gov. Rick Snyder for re-election. That may surprise some because though the governor did announce a plan to raise revenue for the roads, he’s failed to get it through the Legislature.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is scheduled to meet about 20 more days between now and the end of the year.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he has two top priorities he’d like to accomplish before then. The first is to find a way to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads. The second is to ease term limits on Michigan lawmakers.

Richardville says there’s too little experience in the Legislature, thanks to current limits.

“People in general say, ‘I like the idea of term limits.’ But I don’t think they’d like it to be as restrictive as they are. If they knew how quickly and how much turnover there was here, I think they would rethink it,” said Richardville.

Richardville says he’s considering a plan that would allow term-limited lawmakers to collect a certain number of petition signatures allowing them to run again. He did not say exactly how long lawmakers should be allowed to serve.

LisaW123 / Flickr

This story was updated at 8:07 on 8/28/14.

Winter weather is still a few months away – we hope – but road agencies are already preparing for the season.

And they're dealing with a spike in salt prices. The statewide average for road salt is about $66 per ton. That's up nearly 50% from last year.

Michigan's County Road Association says high demand from last winter means vendors haven't been able to adequately restock.

Ed Noyola is the association's deputy director.

By now coverage of last week’s Detroit area flooding has receded. For now, many of us have temporarily forgotten about how bad the potholes were last winter. We are trying, after all, to enjoy the last few days of summer.

However, roads, unlike little boys with scraped knees, don’t heal themselves.

When I was a kid I remember being told that the best thing you could do for a scraped knee was to spit on it.

This is actually not true. Most people know this by now, especially if you’ve ever taken a personal hygiene class. There are a lot more dangerous myths out there, however.

One of which is that we can’t afford to fix our infrastructure.

The fact is that in sheer dollars-and-cents terms we can’t afford not to. This weekend I talked to Jeff Cranson, the head of communications for MDOT, the Michigan Department of Transportation.

I asked him to help me get some hard, cold numbers about the cost of both repairing the roads and also the costs of not doing so.

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