July 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

FACE-OFF: MICHIGAN ROADS

Failure to repair roads rests with Republicans

Singh (Courtesy: Michigan Legislature)

How were the roads this holiday weekend?

Whether you took a trip to one of our many beaches or headed to a nearby hardware store to get work done around the house, I know you felt the same pain I did as your vehicle rumbled over crumbling roads, causing a jarring sensation that could only be equaled by a broken-down carnival ride.

Our roads are in terrible condition, and reports suggest that we need to be investing upward of $2 billion more a year to catch up for the lack of investment.

Despite holding the governor’s office, a majority in the state House and a supermajority in the state Senate for the past three and a half years, Republicans failed to come up with a comprehensive road-funding plan.

During the Republicans’ first two years in office, they offered no credible package to fix the roads. Perhaps they were too busy raising taxes on seniors and middle-class families while slashing education funding to realize that we needed to invest in the state’s infrastructure.

It wasn’t until the governor’s third year before he put forward a comprehensive plan in his budget, but that plan was never voted on because legislative Republican leaders called it “dead on arrival” and stripped it from the budget bill. Finally, after three full years of inaction, Republicans attempted to find a compromise. After failing to do so by their arbitrary June deadline, they left Lansing for summer vacation instead of working through the issues.

My Democratic colleagues in the House voted against adjourning for the summer and called on Republicans to return to Lansing so we can finish our work on road funding. While we continue to wait for the promised results of “relentless positive action,” Michigan drivers continue to shell out money for car repairs and new tires. Each month that goes by without a plan means that our Michigan residents continue to pay this Republican Inaction Tax.

I hope that Republicans legislators have been hearing from their constituents to get a plan done quickly because their actions at the start of the summer seemed to be tone deaf to the severity of the situation. One Republican leader called their failure to get a plan done by the summer break, “not that big of a deal.” Republican leaders even continued with their plan to fix potholes in the legislative parking lot after failing to find a statewide solution and were then surprised that citizens were outraged.

In the end, the lack of action isn’t just a budgetary failure, it’s a job creation failure. A comprehensive road funding program means real jobs for Michigan workers. Given the appalling unemployment numbers in Michigan compared to the rest of the country, one would think this would be priority for any elected official. I guess summer vacation was more important to them.

I have made it clear that I will work with the governor and Republican leaders to build a comprehensive plan if it is fair to all users of the roads. We cannot ask more from our residents while we let overweight commercial trucks continue not to pay their fair share.

As the governor and Senate Republicans have been advocating raising the gas tax, I have said we need to protect seniors and middle-class families that had their taxes raised by Republicans earlier in the governor’s term. There is a bipartisan solution that can be developed. These are the conversations and negotiations we should be having right now. We were hired to do a job, Republicans need to come back to the Capitol so we can do it.

State Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, represents Michigan’s 69th District.

Crumbling Michigan roads are giving everyone a rough ride. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)