Chirkun: Let’s find a road funding fix, Lansing

Rep. John Chirkun

When I came to Lansing in January as the new representative for House District 22, I knew that one of the most important issues we were likely to deal with right away was fixing Michigan’s roads and bridges. I expected it to be a contentious issue, but I thought that we would all understand that repairing and maintaining our roads was important for every single community regardless of that community’s political representation. I thought we would eventually agree on a plan and get the job done. I was mistaken.

As a first-term state representative, I am frustrated that we have not been able to vote on a serious plan that would get the job done for our roads without forcing Michigan’s middle-class families to shoulder most of the cost. This week, we were forced to vote on a plan that is simply a rehash of the Republican plan offered in June that my Democratic colleagues and I rejected. The $600 million in new revenue and $600 million in redirected current revenue plan that was approved by the Republican majority last night is even worse. Their plan cuts $600 million from unspecified areas of the budget, putting education, health care and public safety at risk. It also includes raising registration fees by nearly $400 million and a tax cut that favors the wealthy.

This latest House Republican plan does not even begin to raise the minimum necessary funds to maintain our roads — $1.2 billion per year —until 2021. Average working Michiganders will be forced to drive on crumbling roads and bridges even longer. Meanwhile, they’ll be paying higher car registration fees and higher gas prices at the pump while the wealthiest citizens will enjoy big tax cuts. As a former member of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, I am very concerned about cuts to public safety in order to fund this plan. We shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of our communities in order to fix our roads.

I fully support the road funding plan introduced by my Democratic colleagues. Our plan would raise $1.2 billion for roads by prioritizing and protecting our roads responsibly with existing funds, instituting vehicle registration reforms and calling on businesses to pay their fair share. Fixing our roads will cost money, and we cannot expect working families to be the ones who shoulder the burden of higher taxes to pay for this. The Republican plan fails to do anything about truck weights. We all know that heavy trucks that travel our roads do significant damage, and yet this plan does nothing to address the impact of these trucks on our roads. We need all the groups who use our roads to pay their fair share.

I was ready and willing to come to work during the summer to work on a roads solution. I wish we had spent as much time on a roads plan as we spent on the expulsion hearings for former Reps. Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser.

Our job is to find a serious, workable solution to fix and maintain our roads, bridges and highways. What was passed last night isn’t that solution. We need to work together to find one now.

State Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, represents Michigan House District 22.