Lawmakers promise they havenít given up on addressing Michiganís road crisis, and they had better be good for their word. The Legislature adjourned Thursday night without passing the comprehensive road funding bill Gov. Rick Snyder wanted.
The governor is looking for roughly $1.5 billion a year in new revenue to finally fix the stateís crumbling roadways.
Instead, after several failed attempts to pass tax and fee hikes, lawmakers adjourned for the summer after adopting a small bill that will provide just $285 million in one-time road money.
Thatís not nearly enough to even repair the damage from last winter, let alone do the major rebuilding so many Michigan highways require.
As they left Lansing, legislative leaders promised to form a committee to keep discussion of the issue alive during the 12-week summer break.
This has to be more than a stalling tactic. The committee must forge a compromise bill that can draw enough votes for passage. That solution must be found early in the summer so construction season is not lost.
If Michigan goes into another winter without significantly addressing the road damage done last winter, by next spring a good number of its highways will be barely passable.
An election year is always a difficult time to pass a major tax hike. Lawmakers attempted to raise significant funds without resorting to new taxes, but couldnít come up with a workable formula.
The reality is, taxes must rise if the roads are to be fixed. Thatís the message legislators should be taking home to their constituents this summer.
There remains a good deal of skepticism among Michigan voters about the need for additional road money, despite almost universal agreement that the crumbling highways are one of the most serious challenges facing the state.
Lawmakers and the governor must make a stronger case that existing highway funds are being efficiently used, and if issues such as truck rates and construction standards arenít a factor in the deterioration of roads, then they should sell those points as well.
Michigan roads are beyond the breaking point. Major avenues of commerce are so pock-marked that they delay commercial traffic and cost businesses money. Tire and auto repair shops are doing booming business as vehicles are broken apart by potholes.
Bad roads also present a safety issue. It is much more difficult to control a vehicle on a rough surface. More than 330 motorists have died in Michigan roads thus far in 2014.
This Legislature has done hard things in the past few months, including passing the Detroit bailout and a minimum wage hike.
It also did well last week in upping education spending on universities and K-12 schools, and providing more revenue sharing for local communities.
But roads are a major agenda item, one that has a direct quality of life impact on Michiganians.
Voters may not like a tax hike, but they also donít like rugged roads.
Politicians who refuse to fix the roads will be held accountable in November.