Editorial: End unfair local road match levy
Troy does not want to pay the tab for making commuting easier for its Oakland County neighbors. And who can blame it? The suburb has its own road needs, and not enough money to meet them.
But under an archaic and extremely unfair state cost-sharing law, Troy is in line to kick in $9.6 million to help fund the reconstruction and widening of Interstate 75. Meanwhile it’s neighbor, Bloomfield Township, will pay nothing.
The discrepancy stems from a provision in a 1951 law that requires “cities and villages” with at least 25,000 residents to pay a portion of the state’s cost for highway construction projects within their borders.
Troy — population 81,000 — is a city. Bloomfield — population 41,000 — is a township, and since townships are not mentioned in the law, it gets off free.
The inequity of the formula is obvious. That’s why the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, to repeal that provision of the law and end the cost sharing altogether.
The repeal is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk, and he ought to sign it without delay. In the name of fairness alone, the bill is justified.
But there’s a catch. Snyder’s transportation department is objecting to the legislation for reasons that are purely financial.
Without the local matches, the state will lose $22 million a year in road funding dollars.
Too bad, so sad. Keeping a law on the books that treats taxpayers in different communities unequally cannot be defended, no matter what the cost to the state.
Consider how the current law would impact Troy if it’s not repealed.
The city gets about $3.9 million from the state for “major streets” work, and spends about $2.8 million of that on maintenance. If forced to pay the I-75 match, it would have to return $1.2 million, or nearly one-third of its state grant.
And its residents would benefit no more from the freeway work than those in other communities along the route who will be saved from the matching payment.
Municipal leaders have complained for years about the match and its impact on their budgets. Local match funding for state trunk-line projects has ranged from $2 million to $7 million annually for the past five years.
Local budgets are already strained, and should not have to absorb costs they have no say in levying.
Snyder should sign this bill. And if the state decides it needs local matches for road projects, the Legislature should consider a measure that would spread the costs more equitably.