By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District
On Tuesday, May 5, Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposal 1, the ballot measure that would have paid for road funding in part through raising the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.
Proposal 1, which was expected to raise $1.2 billion, was a very complicated measure, and that may have been part of the reason for its overwhelming defeat.
Voters didn’t trust that somewhere in the details of the proposal could be found a definitive solution for fixing our infrastructure. There is also evidence that voters didn’t trust their legislators to actually follow through on the solutions included in the proposal.
In voting No, voters sent the message that Michigan lawmakers are the ones elected to find solutions to difficult and complicated problems—not simply to send those problems to the ballot box for voters to decide.
Proposal 1 failed, but the problem remains: Our roads are in terrible shape and are getting worse.
A mere 17 percent of our roads are rated in good condition. More than twice that number—38 percent—are considered to be in poor shape, while 45 percent are in fair condition.
According to one report, our terrible roads and bridges cost Michigan motorists a total of $7.7 billion statewide due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. If you are the average Michigander, you pay $357 annually in unnecessary repairs to your vehicle due to damage caused by our roads.
But that’s not all. In addition to higher repair bills, our crumbling infrastructure contributes to injuries and lost economic growth. The economic, financial and physical cost of our decaying roads is unacceptable.
It is imperative now more than ever that the Legislature find a way to fund the repair of our roads and bridges. A modern, well-maintained infrastructure is essential to Michigan’s economy and quality of life. Further neglect will only cost taxpayers more in the long run and deter economic investment across the state. We cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our infrastructure.
And that means we can’t put off this work in Lansing. That is one of the reasons that last week I announced significant additions to the Senate session calendar. We have added 30 days to the Senate calendar over the months of June, July, August and September.
Michigan taxpayers work very hard, and part of the fruit of their labors pays the salaries of their 148 state lawmakers and the governor. Our constituents expect us to put in the time necessary to tackle the tough issues before us.
The new summer schedule reflects this reality. It signals the Legislature’s commitment to hard work and results.
Normally the Senate adjourns for the summer, and senators head back to their districts. For most of us, this time is not a vacation; the majority of our work simply shifts locations, from Lansing to the district.
After a careful review of our goals, I found it to be unreasonable to expect that we can accomplish our work without the addition of these session days.
So the Senate will be in session this summer, working hard to complete the tasks before us. I look forward to working with my colleagues to find a solution to our road-funding problem and to find ways to continue to foster Michigan’s comeback.
This op-ed first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.