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road funding

These days are long gone. A gas pump in 1974.
USEPA

The roads are crumbling and people want them fixed.

But just how do we pay for what some are calling a $2 billion a year problem?

Right now, state lawmakers are considering raising revenue through higher taxes on gas, and that's raised a lot of debate around what we pay at the pump already.

The average gallon of gas in Michigan stands at $3.85 today. In Louisiana, by contrast, the average gallon of gas is $3.38.

Why the difference?

I think the low point in my faith in democracy came late this winter, soon after I had lost one tire to a pothole. I got home after nearly losing another on the lunar surface of a suburban Detroit mile road, just in time to hear a state senator claiming we needed another tax cut.

Well, I thought, I am now living in a Third World country. But guess what? That senator heard from his constituents, big-time. Before long, he was retreating from his tax-cut talk, legislative tail between his legs. Why?

To quote the leader of his caucus, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville R- Monroe, “I’ve heard the message loud and clear that the roads are messed up, and I think the most common phrase I’m hearing from back home is 'just fix the damn roads.'"

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As state lawmakers look to boost investment in Michigan's roads, transit advocates are calling on Lansing not to forget the state’s public transportation systems.

House Speaker Jase Bolger has proposed legislation that would reconfigure gas taxes and add other measures to raise about $450 million a year for road repairs. On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Randy Richardville said he wants to triple that amount to about $1.5 billion.

Roads
Wikimedia Commons

While the debate over transportation funding continues this week in Lansing, a recent report finds most states are spending more to build new roads than they are in repairing the crumbling roads we already have.

A study from the nonpartisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense says that there are exceptions: states that are spending a significant percentage of their road money on repairs. One of those states is Michigan. 

Steve Ellis, Vice President of Taxpayers for Common Sense, joined us. 

*Listen to the full interview above.

Cracked and broken roads
nirbhao / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

LANSING – Michigan lawmakers have taken a step toward spending $450 million a year more on deteriorating roads, mostly by redirecting existing tax dollars. A House committee on Wednesday voted to permanently shift money from Michigan's general fund to transportation spending.

Another panel approved legislation bringing the diesel tax in line with the gasoline tax and taxing fuels on price instead of a flat per-gallon basis. Fuel taxes would grow with inflation.

MDOT

Orange construction barrels are a sure sign of spring in the upper Midwest.

To find where the larger road construction projects will take place in Michigan, you can download this map from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The map is updated each year to help motorists locate major MDOT road and bridge projects across the state. Printed versions are available at MDOT Transportation Service Centers and region offices, as well as at all Welcome Centers. Printed versions will be available in the UP sometime in April.

This map, of course, won't show what local road crews are up to. They'll have their hands full with all the potholes left behind by this brutal winter. 

Some of those crews are more challenged than others:

A Balanced Budget Amendment making the federal government not spend more than it takes in: It sounds pretty good. Get rid of those trillions and trillions of dollars of national debt. But one economist says that's not necessarily a great plan.

Then, it feels like we hear about recalls everyday, from food, to cars, to toys. They make news, but are consumers facing so-called recall fatigue? Are there just so many recalls that we've started to tune them out?

And, you don't have to hunt too far to find critics of our schools, of the way our children are learning, what they're learning and the achievement gap within our classrooms. But are we placing too much pressure on teachers when we expect them to fix these problems?

Also, it’s official. Merriam-Webster now recognizes “Yooper” as a word.

First on the show, for years there’s been talk that Michigan needs to put more money into its roads.

Gov. Snyder has said he wants at least $1.2 billion annually for road maintenance and repair.

A new report says the state needs closer to $2 billion a year.

But negotiations at the state Capitol stalled – until the last few weeks.

Earlier this month, some $200 million was OK’d in a supplemental budget. It looks like another deal could be in the works.

Now word on the street is that this is not some grand bargain. Instead, there are reports that the amount would be closer to $300-400 million. It’s a start, but why now?

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst, and he joined us today.

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

For years there’s been talk that Michigan needs to put more money into its roads.

Gov. Snyder has said he wants at least $1.2 billion annually for road maintenance and repair.

A new report says the state needs closer to $2 billion a year.

But negotiations at the state Capitol stalled – until the last few weeks.

Earlier this month, some $200 million was OK’d in a supplemental budget. It looks like another deal could be in the works.

Now word on the street is that this is not some grand bargain. Instead, there are reports that the amount would be closer to $300-400 million. It’s a start, but why now?

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Kent County judge says Grand Rapids can ask voters in May to approve an income tax extension.

At issue is a temporary income tax hike that's set to expire in July 2015. The city wants to extend the tax an additional 15 years to pay for road improvements.

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

As we gingerly pick our way through Michigan's pothole-ridden and crumbling roads, state lawmakers are hashing out just how much money to spend on fixing the state's roads and highways.

Chris Gautz, the Capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, gave us an update.

*Listen to our interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Many county road budgets in Michigan are idling on empty after our brutal winter.

They hope state lawmakers will agree soon on an emergency road funding bill.

Drivers in Michigan could be forgiven if they think their morning commute feels more like an off-road adventure.

Brutal winter weather has turned many roads into a moonscape of potholes, more suited to an ATV than the family car.

Denise Donohue is the director of the County Road Association of Michigan. She says some county road agencies have blown through a year’s budget in just two months.

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