Bankole: Democratic leader hopeful about roads in 2020

Bankole Thompson

Last year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's road funding proposal was not only doomed to failure in a Republican-led Legislature, but also lacked broad support among Democrats in the House.

When Michigan House Minority Leader Christine Greig effectively declared Whitmer’s 45-cent fuel tax dead in the water, it raised questions about Whitmer’s ability to convince even her own party on important issues. 

With the beginning of the 2020 legislative session, Greig, a Farmington Hills Democrat, says she expects our decrepit roads to remain a top issue. 

“As Michiganders face another season of deeper and wider potholes, House Democrats will continue to present solutions for raising needed revenue, strengthening governance of road funding and construction standards and modernizing our funding distribution model,” Greig told me. “We must prioritize our road construction dollars where they are the most needed — in high volume, densely populated areas. This is a matter of public safety, business attraction and cost savings.”

But fixing the roads may require the Legislature to tilt towards a new road funding model. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan faults PA 51, the current transportation fund, as part of the pothole crisis. 

Greig agrees. 

“PA 51 is outdated and does not serve the needs of most Michiganders,” she says. “I fully support creating a new Transportation Fund for new revenue as well as looking at better ways to distribute the registration fees and gas taxes we currently collect.”

But beyond the roads fiasco, there are other issues Greig says Democrats and Republicans could also work on together. 

House Speaker Lee Chatfield and House Minority Leader Christine Greig. Greig, a Farmington Hills Democrat, says she expects our decrepit roads to remain a top issue.

“Democrats continue to lead in introducing legislation on criminal justice reforms and government transparency and accountability,” she says. “I believe we will finally see movement on FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and financial disclosures and on implementing lame duck controls. We will continue to work on expungements, re-entry employment programs and bail bond reforms. Elder abuse prevention and detection laws are another opportunity for collaboration.”

State Sen. Peter Lucido, a Macomb County Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, has emerged as a strong ally on the issues of criminal justice reform. A former longtime public defender in Wayne County, Lucido in closing 2019 waxed heavily on the issue. 

“Taxpayers are spending too much to keep people behind bars and not enough on helping rehabilitate and prepare inmates for life after prison,” Lucido says. “Perhaps as a result, those in the criminal justice system are often unable to participate as productive members of society, even if they want to. For many of them, getting a taste of the American dream is just that — a dream.

“I fundamentally believe that economic opportunity is the best way to empower the individual to climb out of poverty, achieve success and build a better future. How can the criminal justice system play a role in helping to eliminate the economic disparity that exists between those in the system and the rest of society? Can elected officials affect change that enables them to transition back into society and regain the dignity of independence and productivity? I believe we can, and we should.” 

Greig says Democrats are not going to waiver on the issues resonating with their constituents in 2020. 

“Michigan House Democrats remain focused on delivering legislative solutions that ensure residents have access to quality health care with protections for pre-existing conditions and affordable prescription drugs,” Greig says. “We also continue working to strengthen our educational system by investing in literacy resources, special education, support for at-risk students, providing nurses and more counselors and funding debt-free community college opportunities. Another critically important priority is protecting our environment by strengthening polluter pay laws as well water and air quality regulations.”