Haworth: Senate plan is the path to better roads

Matthew Haworth

We need our roads fixed. We need them fixed now. Few people who have driven on deteriorating Michigan roads over the past several years would disagree with that. Unfortunately, the residents of our state have been presented with a series of faulty solutions to this problem — including a disastrous proposal to raise sales taxes that was soundly defeated by voters.

Recently, however, State Sen. Arlan Meekhof led the Michigan Senate to pass a solution that represents a reasonable compromise to this difficult problem. It would fix the roads. Although it may not be an ideal solution in everyone’s estimation, it will deliver results.

The Senate-passed plan does three key things:

First, it provides a structural fix to maintain and rebuild our crumbling transportation infrastructure with more than $1.25 billion in ongoing annual investments.

Second, the Senate plan looks first to the state’s own budget to prioritize spending. They come up with about half of the funding from their own budget, by looking at their work and their budget first.

Third, they raise the remaining need through user fees, and only retain enough money to complete the needed funding for transportation — not for other demands.

Plus, the Senate passed plan increases warranty requirements for road builders to stand behind their work. It adds more competitive bidding requirements to enable taxpayers to get the best bid possible, while requiring the Michigan Department of Transportation to find ways to build longer lasting roads and bridges.

The Senate plan does even better. The income tax is a tax on the hard work of Michigan’s workers. We see the highest growth rates in jobs and personal income happening in states with lower or no income tax. This plan responsibly phases out the income tax in exchange for user fees to fund our roads.

Businesses all over Michigan have trucks on the road every day. They will pay more as the state diesel fuel tax rises to the same rate as unleaded gas, but that is fair. We will also pay more with the increased gasoline tax, but at least we know that the money will go to desperately needed transportation improvements — because it is constitutionally mandated to do so. We are willing to pay this because we know better roads mean more work and increased opportunity in Michigan.

We appreciate Gov. Rick Snyder’s leadership in demanding that this issue be resolved. We applaud Meekhof and the Senate for their work in delivering a strong solution. We encourage Speaker Kevin Cotter and the House to now forge a compromise that continues to fully fund transportation, dedicates significant existing resources as the first part of the solution, and raises the remainder in a way that keeps Michigan competitive.

This bill represents a compromise, but compromise is not a bad word. Results matter to every Michiganian. The Senate plan puts us on the right road; now we need our legislators to drive us to better roads.

Matthew Haworth is vice chairman of the board of the West Michigan Policy Forum, and chairman of Haworth, Inc.