Snyder joins bus tour at bridge site to tout Proposal 1
Ray Township — Gov. Rick Snyder and other leaders ramped up their efforts today to sell a proposal tax increase on Tuesday's ballot to the public with more examples of dilapidated roads and bridges that they say probably won't get fixed without new funding.
The governor took a 10-minute tour with Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle of the now-closed 32 Mile Road bridge in northern Macomb County that is falling apart and has been shut down for more than a month.
Proposal 1, which would raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and change the fuel tax system to help raise $1.2 billion for road and bridge repairs, has prompted opposition from some GOP groups who argue the other elements of the measure would raise additional taxes that middle-class families cannot afford.
The governor disagrees with the logic and said the public needs to speak up Tuesday at the ballot box.
"We've been underinvesting (in roads and bridges) for a long time," Snyder said after his media briefing at Romeo State Airport.
The event was part of a three-day bus tour launched Thursday that will continue Friday in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo and end Monday with stops in Howell and Detroit's Eastern Market. The governor wasn't present as the green-and-yellow tour bus departed the State Capitol at noon because he was outlining his Detroit school reform plan in the city.
It's a last-ditch effort to drum up support for the plan Snyder and lawmakers hammered out in a marathon legislative session in December to raise more money for Michigan's crumbling roads and bridges.
Opponents counter that the plan features the biggest Michigan tax increase in 50 years — $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion overall — is needlessly complex and expands government by allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to services unrelated to roads, including a $260 million expansion of the tax credit for the working poor.
Paul Mitchell, who has spent $160,830 of his own money so far to try to defeat Proposal 1, said the voters on Tuesday should reject the measure and return the issue to their elected officials in the Legislature.
"We've argued for quite a bit of time that it's a poor response to the situation," said Mitchell, who heads up the Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, one of four groups opposing the the tax increase. "There are a number of leaders in the Legislature who said that if it fails, we can resolve this issue. I think that we need to expect the Legislature would do their job and take this on and come up a package that just addresses our road issue and addresses it responsibly."
Snyder said his administration has shifted millions of dollars from the General Fund to fix roads but it isn't nearly enough. "Don't we want better, safer roads and additional resources going to our schools and local government?" he said, referring to the $300 million extra annually for schools and $90 million for communities.
If the measure fails, the governor said fixing roads will be "extra difficult" because he expects legislators to be more cautious after the defeat of a tax increase.
"But the issue shouldn't be about what's the next step if it doesn't pass," he said. "Not doing anything will be a disservice to our citizens."
Steudle said that the wary public should consider that many bridges and roads are in deplorable shape because they were built in the 1950s and 1960s.
"Those aren't going to last forever," he said. "I've had people on my own staff, that have been late for work because they blew out a tire or they damaged their suspension. We're paying for it already. We are wasting money. We can be a penny wise and pound foolish and, in this case, we have been pound foolish for a long, long, long time."
Campaign finance reports filed last week indicated the Safe Roads Yes campaign backing the ballot measure had raised $8 million and spent $7.2 million, mostly on TV ads. It is 40 times more than the amounts raised and spent by four organized opposition groups.
Dave Waymire, a spokesman for the Safe Roads Yes campaign, said the bus, featuring a large photo of a broken road section and the campaign logo, will be a "mobile billboard" reminding people to vote as it tours Michigan on Thursday, Friday and Monday.
Besides Romeo, Safe Roads Yes tour stops also were planned at Davison and Cadillac on Thursday.