For the third year in a row, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has called for new spending of $1.2 billion annually over a decade to fix the state’s crumbling network of roads. At least this much funding is needed.
In fact, transportation experts last year projected that Michigan needs to spend $1.4 billion a year just to prevent its roads from getting worse than they already are. Until now, though, Mr. Snyder has had more-urgent priorities. His roads plan stalled in the Legislature, largely because of members of his own Republican Party who are ideologically opposed to any new taxes, no matter how necessary.
Not spending this money will cost the state heavily in the long run. Michigan residents pay, on average, $81 a year more than Ohioans for car repairs, mostly because of the condition of the roads they use. As Mr. Snyder noted in his recent State of the State message, fixing roads now will cost far less than deferring maintenance indefinitely.
But the governor hurt his and the state’s chances for agreement on road funding with the high-handed way his troops muscled through legislation last month to make Michigan a right-to-work state, without a single committee hearing or debate. A strengthened minority of legislative Democrats is not inclined to help the governor; some of their votes will be essential if a roads bill is to pass.
Failing to address this problem now would hurt all Michiganians. As the state’s leader, Mr. Snyder should look for a way to win over Democrats — and to find a funding scheme for roads that doesn’t put an unfair share of the burden on lower-income taxpayers.
For their part, Democratic lawmakers should consider that no matter how justifiably angry they are at the governor and their GOP counterparts, it makes little sense to cripple the state’s ability to compete by failing to fix its roads.