Lame duck needs to be about roads
December is the time of year when most people begin preparing to celebrate the holidays and politics and public policy are far from their minds with the election in the rearview mirror. But in Lansing the Legislature is in the midst of lame duck season. The session is aptly titled because many lawmakers are in their final days and are finishing up their work in the Legislature.
Lame duck can be a time to complete unfinished business that the Legislature didn’t have time to get to before the election. Sadly, in recent years we have seen the lame duck session used to bring up new issues that haven’t endured the scrutiny of public debate and certainly weren’t vetted by voters. Right to work is a high profile example. More recently, in 2014, issues such as banning cities and townships from having a say in local development, altering the electoral college voting procedures for partisan gain, creating more hurdles for women to access reproductive health care, and preemptively banning student athletes from forming unions are just a few examples.
Instead of focusing on new issues that were not part of the discussion during the election or the other divisive issues that are floating around the halls of Lansing, the Legislature should focus on Michigan’s unfinished business — finding a responsible solution for funding our roads.
The Senate passed a bipartisan plan that would raise revenues in a responsible manner and both business groups and labor are on the same page on this issue.
A responsible road-funding plan will help Michigan’s economy by creating good-paying construction jobs and updating our crumbling infrastructure, which serves as a vital engine in our economic development.
There have been calls from leaders for responsible road funding from across the state as well as phone calls and letters written from concerned citizens to our lawmakers urging them to fix our roads and bridges without hurting schools and local communities, but yet, despite the fact that we all know our roads need to be fixed, there is no solution yet.
This week, leaders from both the House and Senate are meeting in a conference committee and attempting to hammer out a compromise between the two differing bills that have passed. We desperately need to fund repairs to our roads and bridges and we need to further invest in mass transit to make Michigan an attractive place to live, work and create jobs. However, the deal must be responsible and not take away from our schools and cities.
I sincerely hope a responsible road funding solution is put on the governor’s desk this week because we have debated for far too long and with what is said to be another harsh winter ahead of us, we can no longer wait to do the right thing.
All Michiganians want from this Legislature is a responsible solution to our road problem. They don’t want partisan gamesmanship or irresponsible legislation like we’ve seen over the past several years. Let’s hope that our Legislature finishes up the work that needs to be done and leaves new business for the new year. In 2015, we ought to be driving on safe roads that maximize our opportunities for economic growth and fund the work in a manner that keeps our schools and cities intact. We don’t need anything more and can’t settle for anything less.
Karla Swift is president of Michigan AFL-CIO.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.