Monday, February 23, 2015

Stop Lying To Michiganders About Road Proposal

State Rep. Greg MacMaster

By Brandon Hall   
(Email him at

Some people keep saying that there's just no money in the budget for road funding as they support a proposal where 40% does not even go to roads. And remember-no road work will even begin until next April at the earliest. A lie repeated often enough becomes truth, so expect the extreme road rhetoric to continue as various interests try to scare Michigan voters..

Nolan Finley recently wrote that:

"Those who want the money to come out of current spending are delusional. Republicans aren't going to make substantial cuts to prison spending, Democrats aren't going to hack welfare spending, and neither party is going to touch school spending.

The right way to raise road money is to increase the fuel tax, but lawmakers couldn't agree to do that in the last session, and this new Legislature is even less likely to do so. If Prop 1 fails, revenue hikes of any kind will be off the table. Proposal 1 is flawed, but it's all we got.

So the real message to voters should be this: Hold your noses and vote for Prop 1, or keep driving on what may be the deadliest roads in America. Guaranteed."

Wow-delusional? "Deadliest roads in America?" Here we go...

Miraculously, though, there is $88 million for a new House "visitor center" and parking lot!

And $50 million so Arlan Meekhof and the Senate can get a new office with a better view of the Capitol building!

Those are just one time sources. Former State Rep. Greg MacMaster, however, has layed out over a billion dollars in revenue every year that doesn't touch education or prisons and does not raise taxes.

He writes:

"Following are five reform proposals that include some of Speaker Jase Bolger’s recent transportation funding proposal. They also include other reforms that were introduced last year but have not been acted on.

These reforms identify over a billion dollars that can be allocated to roads WITHOUT increasing taxes;

(1) Dedicate a portion of the sales tax on gasoline for roads.

When motorists purchase gasoline, they pay state and federal taxes for each gallon. Motorists also pay a 6% sales tax on top of that, which most people assume goes to roads. It doesn’t. It’s diverted to other government spending.

Dedicating 1.5% of the 6% for roads doesn’t solve the problem of diverting money people believe already goes to roads, but it’s a start.

This is a modification of Speaker Jase Bolger’s transportation proposal and would raise $195 million.

(2) Repeal Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Laws.

These laws dictate the minimum amount that workers for certain types of public construction projects must be paid. These arbitrary amounts are upwards of 25% higher than amounts paid by the private sector.

A study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy found that “repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law would have an impact the equivalent of giving every taxpayer a rebate equal to five percent of his state income tax payments.”

According to an October 2013 report by the House Fiscal Agency, individual income tax revenue is expected to be approximately $8.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2013-14.

If the state realized the savings forecast by the Mackinac Center study it could result in a savings of $415 million that could be reallocated to roads.

(3) Permanently dedicate 1% of use tax revenue to roads.

This is part of Speaker Jase Bolger’s transportation proposal and would raise $239 million.

(4) Redirect Oil & Gas royalty revenue to roads.

In May 2001, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund cap was reached, resulting in $35 million a year in excess funds to be directed to the State Park Endowment Fund and the Game and Fish Protection Fund.

As oil and gas is often transported over Michigan’s roads, this unexpected windfall should be rerouted to maintaining Michigan’s roads.

(5) Competitively bid certain state agency services.

A recent analysis by the Legislature’s House Fiscal Agency identified $2.4 billion in state spending that includes budgetary line items where additional savings could be realized through competitive bidding. A mere 3% in total spending would result in a savings of $72 million.

Additionally, if the Corrections Department’s health and medical services were competitively bid, it could realize a $50 million savings.

Combined, that’s a $122 million savings that could be transferred to roads.

Total savings from just these five reforms: over a BILLION dollars and NO TAX INCREASE!

Does this package of reform proposals solve our road problem? No, but it’s a start. It’s perpetual funding that would help create a long term funding solution for our roads and bridges as well as preserve Act 51.

Speaker Jase Bolger has some good ideas that do not rely on higher taxes. I’ve also offered a few. And there are other legislators who are sharpening their pencils and offering innovative ideas as well.

Other legislators have proposed creative solutions to lower overall transportation costs, provide better value for taxpayers through road construction guarantees, and identify new sources of revenue that do not include higher taxes.

Some of the most creative measures may not have been realized yet. Not a day goes by without constituents suggesting ideas for other reforms in policy and operation of state government, and many of them are quite good.

Raising taxes is seldom their first choice, why should it be ours?"

Don't like MacMaster's plan? Tim Skubick noted recently that a majority of Michiganders support legalizing and taxing marijuana to fix roads.

Interestingly enough, we wouldn't even have to tax it-simply making it legal would end over a billion dollars in the costs of enforcing Michigan's maijuana laws.

In a Harvard study, "The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition," it was revealed:

"Eight states each spend more than $1 billion annually enforcing marijuana laws: New York, $3 billion; Texas, $2 billion; California, Florida, $1.9 billion; Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, $1 billion."

Looks like Tim Skubick may have been on to something..."Pot for Potholes," I like it. #Pot4Potholes is a natural hashtag. By the way-violent crime, car accidents, and thefts are down in Colorado after they legalized pot. Could make it hard for propaganda outfits to combat those facts if marijuana reform advocates can get something before voters...

Anyway-this B.S. that this is our "last choice," only choice," et al is complete garbage and most Michiganders know it.

Road funding is Rick Snyder's political baby-he'll do anything to get it done. Even if it means paying a $700 million "ransom" to special interests as Paul Mitchell says, to get it -as any parent would for their child if they could.

Snyder can get his road funding, but it probably won't come on May 5th. And that's probably a good thing-because "the deadliest roads in America" won't be fixed until at least next April in this package.

Our deadly roads can't wait that long-tell Arlan Meekhof and Lansing to get back to work NOW and find a way to deliver safe roads to Michiganders as soon as possible. They have lots of ways to get it done.
Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics. >>>Email him at 

Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson

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