Transportation funding continues to be the most talked about issue within the Michigan legislature and has been since the new year began. Looked at as one of the few things left undone in the 2011 – 2012 legislative cycle, there is an overwhelming sense of acceptance among the lawmakers that something HAS to be done on transportation funding, and done prior to summer break. With that, several items have occurred over the past two weeks that are steps in the right direction toward finding a long-term solution to our funding problem. As mentioned previously, the Governor was very strong in his State of the State address of the need to invest adequately in our infrastructure and to “put politics aside” and “just get it done.” Most recently, Governor Snyder highlighted the need to address our infrastructure problem in his budget presentation to the legislature. The Governor once again urged lawmakers to pass a significant increase in the annual investment to our transportation system in the amount of $1.5 billion, with a mixture of a gas tax increase, registration fee increase and a local option to raise additional funds.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Senate has introduced its own funding solution that is similar to the Governor’s proposal, but has an added twist. The Senate proposal, heavily supported by Senator Roger Kahn, is a nine bill package that would raise the additional annual investment to our transportation system by $1.6 billion through a gas tax increase and registration fee increase. Additionally, however, a joint resolution was introduced that would put on the ballot (for a public vote) a 2% sales tax increase fully dedicated to transportation. If the voters approved the 2% sales tax increase, the gas tax and registration fee increases would not go into effect, and in fact, that current 19 cent gas tax would be repealed. PHEW…that was a lot to swallow. Essentially, voters would have a choice between higher gas taxes and registration fees OR a 2% increase on all of the goods that they purchase that are subject to the sales tax to adequately fund our infrastructure in Michigan. Both proposals have an annual net increase of $1.6 billion.
Following the introduction of the Senate bill package, the Senate this week announced a new standing committee that would address the funding problem. The new committee (Infrastructure Modernization) is chaired by Senator Roger Kahn and includes Senators Pappageorge, Booher, Brandenburg, Jansen, Hood and Warren. Two joint meetings have been scheduled with the House Transportation Committee for next Tuesday and Thursday, where the committees will be discussing how we currently spend money within our system and what the current lack of funding has meant to the condition of our roads and bridges.
The House Republicans came out with their “Action Plan” for the 2013 – 2014 legislative cycle last week, which included discussions of “investing effectively” in Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. Comments to the media and conversations with MITA employees and members have indicated that the House is also in agreement that we have to invest more in Michigan’s infrastructure, but the question remains, what is the best way to accomplish that? The entire legislature continues to look for cost saving measures and other areas where money could potentially be diverted from to help pay for our failing roads and bridges.
We have seen a tremendous amount of increased outreach from our members over the past several weeks. MITA members are writing letters, emails, making phone calls and personally visiting with their senators and representatives from where they reside or where their businesses are located. And, it is having an impact. We are hearing from legislators that they are hearing from you, but they need to hear from more of our membership. Those that oppose increased investments to our transportation system are certainly reaching out to their elected officials to urge them to vote no on any proposals and we need to counter that by educating the legislature on how important increased funding is and sharing what it will mean to you, your family, your employees and their families and to our entire state.
We are here to help. Whether it is help writing a letter to your elected officials, or a letter to the editor of your local paper or most effective, setting up a personal meeting with them, we can assist you. Please contact our Outreach Coordinator Mariam Robinson at (517) 347-8336 or email at email@example.com to get started.