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How did we get to the point where voting ourselves a tax increase became our best hope for better roads?

The answer is simpler than you think, and begins with the first 10 years after 2000.

That century began with a trickle of layoffs and plant closings, and culminated with the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler.

In that span of time, Michigan lost almost 1 million jobs, while state tax revenues and local property values plummeted.

As a result, the state faced billions of dollars of budget deficits from 2001-10. Because economists recommended against using tax increases alone to close those deficits, painful cuts had to be made to many state programs.

Those cuts included reductions in funding for roads, schools and cities. Put bluntly, Michigan didn’t have the money to keep state roads what they once were, best in the nation.

But it’s not like legislators didn’t try. For years, they attempted to cobble together a road funding package. None ever had the votes to pass.

Unfortunately, roads and bridges wear with time and use. So as legislators debated, Michigan roads continued to worsen. Dramatically.

Last December, after years of failing to pass a roads package by a simple majority, legislators went one step further. They passed legislation to put Proposal 1 on the ballot by a supermajority.

Over 75 percent of legislators voted in support of this issue; and did they work together in bipartisan fashion to get it done? You bet they did.

So that explains how we got here. Now what do we do? The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association’s answer is straightforward: Pass Proposal 1.

Michigan tourism is dependent on generating good experiences and happy memories. A vacation comprised of bone-jarring potholes and repair-induced delays increasingly means many visitors from other states won’t come back.

However, crumbling roads are much harder on Michigan residents. We travel bad roads all year long, and as a result, have the highest auto repair costs in the Great Lakes region. That’s less money in your pocket for family vacations and other more important things.

We can and must do better on May 5.

Under Proposal 1, every penny we pay in state gas taxes would be guaranteed, under our constitution, to go to transportation and to fix our roads and bridges. No longer would the state Legislature be able to spend the taxes we pay at the pump on non-transportation purposes.

Our industry and state depend on good schools and well-educated graduates. After a decade of cuts, Proposal 1 guarantees more funding to improve schools and our children’s future.

Steve Yencich, president and CEO,

Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association

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