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Editorial: Time is now to make roads funding deal

Editorial: Time is now to make roads funding deal
Wednesday, Jun 26, 2019

A coalition of business advocates last week had a simple message for legislators: Fix the roads before you hit the road.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber and numerous other groups all called on the Legislature to pass “a multi-year investment of billions of new dollars” and to make meaningful progress on a plan before recessing for the summer.

They’re right. The time to move forward is now.

Instead, various factions in the Capitol are busily working on their own plans. House Democrats came out with part of theirs last week — a misguided proposal to raise business taxes that has little in common with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed increase in gas taxes. (The House Democrat proposal also would not raise the amount of money needed to address the problem.)

Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature, say they intend to put out a counterproposal in July. And nobody seems to be advocating for Whitmer’s gas-tax increase, which at least has the virtue of placing the cost for road repairs on the heaviest users.

Not only are the roads deteriorating further — and the eventual price tag going up — with every day that passes, but the political price lawmakers will pay for a tax increase is rising, too.

The reality is that there will be financial pain for taxpayers in some form. It’s not realistic to expect to raise the $2.5 billion that’s said to be needed by putting a toll on out-of-state trucks. And that means there will be a political cost.

That cost, as it always does, will shrink over time. The sooner lawmakers bite the bullet and make the change, the more time voters will have to forget a vote to raise taxes — and the more likely they will be to see the benefits from that spending in the form of smoother roads.

Voters sent a clear message in last fall’s election that this is their priority. It’s incumbent on leaders in Lansing to make good on that promise, but the more time passes, the harder that will be to do.

And if lawmakers don’t make good on the roads? Well, the political price then will be even higher. Avoiding that might be worth a delay in summer vacation.

Source: Crain’s Detroit Business

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