June 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

LABOR VOICES

Republican took their eyes off roads

Swift: Republican failure to pass a roads bill will hurt Michiganians. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

Last month, I wrote about the need for bipartisan cooperation to fix Michigan’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. Now with the Legislature largely out for the summer, the failure to fix our roads in a timely manner is official. Thanks to Republican politics as usual, Michiganians will be stuck navigating a crisis situation for another year, as evidenced by crumbling roads, potholes and dangerous bridges.

It is the Legislature’s job to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system. It is incumbent upon Gov. Rick Snyder to take an active lead to work with them on a solution. The failure to get this done rests squarely with the majority party, which has had control of both branches of government since 2011. Republicans have repeatedly exercised their power, overreaching to ram through many controversial bills without input from Democrats. Yet they have not used their authority for basic road improvements. The majority party has been unwilling, not unable, to fix our infrastructure. This is a dereliction of duty on an issue that affects everyone.

Most people agree that Michigan needs better roads. Both the business community and labor community are supporting transportation funding. Local governments agree too, as they are catching the brunt of the problem and depleting their small budgets to supply inadequate patches. Improving our roads and bridges will create thousands of good-paying private sector jobs in Michigan. Construction and other related transportation jobs will be a shot in the arm for Michigan’s economy. Another benefit to rebuilding this infrastructure is that Michigan will be able to attract new businesses and tourists, all of which will boost our economy. And let’s not forget the “pothole tax” — bent rims, stone chips and potential accidents that would be prevented.

Even with all of the public support, the Legislature and Snyder still didn’t get the job done. They may try to point fingers at the other side of the aisle, but at the end of the day it is the Republicans who hold the power, have the votes and failed to take the lead and act. As the driver behind state policy, Snyder can’t blame passengers for his reckless maneuvers.

Michigan deserves better than this. We deserve better than a government that gives away $1.8 billion tax dollars to corporations and then fails to fix a $1.8 billion dollar deficit in our road funding. Michigan deserves better than a government that passes legislation to tax pensioners, cut education funding and repeal middle class tax credits, yet allows our roads and bridges to deteriorate. Michigan deserves better than legislators who find the will to aggressively pass anti-worker legislation, yet leave for a 12-week “summer break” without getting their job done first.

The Republican majority has consistently taken their eyes off the road, so to speak. They have driven our state into a ditch with policies that harm Michigan workers and their families, harm higher education and K-12 schools, harm our poor and most vulnerable, and harm our transportation infrastructure. Our road problems didn’t happen overnight. Legislative leaders and Snyder have had years to solve this, but have chosen not to act.

Karla Swift is Michigan state president of the AFL-CIO.