Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Michigan’s road folly



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Terri Lynn Land, the Republican nominee in this year’s election for U.S. Senate in Michigan, spent eight years as a usually sensible and pragmatic secretary of state. Unfortunately, these qualities seem to have deserted her during what has become an increasingly odd campaign for higher office.

Michigan’s roads are in notoriously bad shape. For three years, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has implored the Legislature to come up with more money for road repair and maintenance.

Ms. Land has a different idea: drastically cut federal road funding. She would reduce the federal gasoline tax from 18.4 cents to 4 cents a gallon. This would presumably deprive Michigan of most of the $1.2 billion a year it gets from Washington to fix roads and bridges that qualify for federal aid.

The candidate explained: “I am talking about putting Michigan first by removing the Washington middleman ... If we reduce the federal gas tax, states like Michigan will be free to design their own transportation funding mechanisms.”

This argument ignores two major pieces of reality. Michigan gets back slightly more from the federal government for highway funding than it sends in taxes, so her plan would punish taxpayers.

And even after the devastating winter produced a pothole epidemic this spring, Michigan lawmakers refused to appropriate serious new money for roads, despite clear evidence that the vast majority of citizens wanted them to do that. It is virtually impossible to imagine that lawmakers would more than double the state gas tax — an action that would be needed to replace the drastic cut in federal aid under Ms. Land’s scheme.

Michigan badly needs better roads. The state’s politicians owe it to their constituents to admit that everyone is going to have to pay to fix them.

Years ago, a character in the comic strip “Doonesbury” uttered the famous line: “The world needs grown-ups.” In Michigan, that may be especially true these days, most of all, in politics.

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