Michigan roads are in bad shape and getting worse. But it is not too late to fix them.
Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed raising $1.2 billion a year — the minimum needed to restore roads and bridges to decent shape — by raising gasoline taxes and registration fees. Consumers would feel that, but if the roads aren’t repaired soon, motorists will feel that even more.
Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, says that without more money, within a decade most of the state’s roads will slip into poor condition. At that point, he says, “our job becomes, how do we help Rome self-destruct? That’s where we are going.”
The leaders of the Michigan Legislature, like Nero, seem content to fiddle. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R., Monroe) has been all over the lot. At one point, he said the roads must be fixed for future generations. Then Mr. Richardville pronounced Governor Snyder’s plan a “nonstarter,” and added something silly about taxing alternative-fuel vehicles.
Some lawmakers are talking about raising money by hiking the state sales tax. Not only would that be regressive, it couldn’t happen for many months.
Mr. Snyder’s plan has a glaring flaw: Commercial vehicles would face a much smaller registration increase than passenger cars and trucks. But the proposal is in essence a user fee, and making those who drive the most pay the most seems roughly fair.
In any event, Michigan desperately needs economic development. Not fixing the state’s roads and bridges quickly would help kill any chance of progress. Lawmakers should come up with the money for road repair, as soon and as reasonably as possible.