Opinion: Public Act 51 is a road funding hurdle
Anyone who has driven our highways the past decade understands why then-candidate Gretchen Whitmer’s “fixing the damn roads” campaign theme resonated in her successful bid for governor.
There have been many fits and starts by previous Michigan governors and legislators trying to solve this politically charged issue. Nobody seems to have found a fiscal or constructive solution to this problem. As a state, we always seem to suffer in comparison to such neighbors as Ohio and Indiana.
Gov. Whitmer is proposing a courageous solutions for fixing our roads in her budget proposal.
Now may be the right time to show some real political courage in dealing with the elephant in the room, Public Act 51.
Michigan roads are funded through PA 51, which determines how money get distributed between the state, counties and cities.
This law passed in 1951 to try to find a compromise between outstate communities and urban areas. The law deals with collecting motor fuel and vehicle tax revenues.
After the taxes are collected, approximately 39 percent of the revenue goes to the State for roads maintained by MDOT, 39 percent to counties for county roads and 21.8 percent to cities and villages for their street systems.
The Metropolitan Detroit area and other urban areas always seem to get the short end of that stick. How so? This formula has been around for over 60 years, is antiquated, and does not take into consideration and prioritize for heavily-used roads in metropolitan areas.
Can anyone really argue that heavy trucks and high-volume car usage in densely populated areas such as southeastern Michigan take a much heavier toll on our roads than in rural areas of the state?
It would make sense to put more money in road maintenance in urban areas than rural roads since that is where most of the usage and damage exist. Those of us in southeastern Michigan generate the vast majority of the funds used in PA 51.
I doubt the PA 51 formula will be changed to benefit and prioritize the distribution of road funds as it should. The Legislature has had many opportunities to make the adjustment but has failed to act.
So, maybe it’s time for a referendum. I am sure the voters who are being shortchanged in the Metro Detroit area would support such an adjustment to the PA 51 formula. We in southeastern Michigan have generated the vast revenue used in PA 51, and deserve a better return on tax dollars.
Robert Ficano is the former Wayne County executive, and is currently a host on radio 910 and an adjunct professor at Wayne County Community College.