Editorial: Renew, rebuild Michigan
Gov. Rick Snyder is asking lawmakers to pass in their lame-duck session two bills key to responsibly paying for keeping Michigan clean and structurally sound. They should OK both of them.
The first, dubbed Renew Michigan, would increase the so-called tipping fee for dumping garbage into Michigan landfills.
The current fee is 39 cents a ton — that compares to an average $4.50 a ton in other Midwestern states. No wonder that 25 percent of the trash dumped in Michigan comes from Ohio and Ontario.
Snyder is asking lawmakers to raise the fee to $3.75 a ton and dedicate the money to cleaning up the 3,000 contaminated sites in the state that have no private sources of funding to do the work.
In 1998, the state issued a $675 million bond for environmental cleanup, but that's depleted. The fee increase, which would average $4 a year annually per household, would raise an additional $69 million to continue the program.
Snyder prefers a fee to produce an ongoing stream of revenue and to avoid the interest costs of a bond.
Lawmakers see the fee hike as a tax increase and have held out on approving the governor's request.
That's short-sighted. The contaminated land is a primary source of groundwater pollution. Paying to clean up the sites now could spare Michigan a much larger bill in the future.
Republicans in the Legislature are also reluctant to move on a proposal for a Rebuild Michigan fund to help local communities deal with aging water pipes and sewer lines.
A surcharge averaging $20 a year per household would be added to water bills. Eighty percent of the funds would return to the counties from which they were raised, while the rest would be held by the state to deal with emergencies that the communities can't handle.
Again, this is a responsible approach to dealing with an intractable problem. Michigan's underground infrastructure is deteriorating. More resources are needed at the local level to pay for repairs.
Lawmakers must get over their tax hike paranoia. The amount of money involved here is small compared to the amount of good it will do for cleaning up and rebuilding Michigan.
Michigan needs roughly $800 million a year to fix or replace pipes in 1,390 water systems where the infrastructure is between 50 and 100 years old.
This is a responsibility that must be met today, with funds raised today, and shouldn't be financed through bond obligations that future generations will have to meet.
Lawmakers should pass these two packages before the lame duck ends in two weeks and send them to the governor.