GENESEE COUNTY — John Daly will be one of the first to admit Lansing’s Proposal 1 plan to fix Michigan roads is a long way from being a cure-all for the state’s deteriorating infrastructure — but, he said, it’s a start.
Daly, director of the Genesee County Road Commission, said he supports Proposal 1, which will be on the ballot for voters across Michigan to decide, May 5.
The ballot proposal will ask voters to increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, but exempt fuel, as part of a larger plan to secure funding for infrastructure improvements.
The proposal is projected to eventually generate $1.25 billion a year for roads and bridges, said officials with the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency. It would also raise $200 million for the School Aid Fund and $111 million for local governments, when fully implemented.
Passage of the proposal would also prompt the enacting of legislation, including:
An increase in fuel taxes, converting the existing 19-cent per gallon gasoline and 15-cent per gallon diesel taxes to a wholesale version. Gas taxes could surpass 41 cents by October, but there would be no additional sales tax, with resulting revenue going toward transportation.
Eliminate annual registration fee discounts
Increase fees for heavy trucks
Create new surcharges for electric and hybrid vehicles whose owners pay fewer fuel taxes
Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit
In the first two years of the proposal, if approved, transportation projects statewide would not see much, if any, of the new revenue because the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will pay off outstanding debt with the fund generated.
Afterwards, designated percentages of the money will go toward roads, corrections and education with Constitutional protection the revenue cannot be taken from those recipients.
Daly said if the proposal doesn’t pass, there is no “plan B” and road conditions will continue to deteriorate. In Genesee County, where the road commission has been trying to do more with less, he already expects the cold winter to take a toll on roads as bad or worse as pothole season in 2014.
“I challenge anyone who doesn’t vote for this proposal to offer up their own plan,” he said. “Go out and take a picture of your road — because that’s the best it’s going to look from this point forward. We’re out of options.”
Daly said there has not been an increase in road funding in Michigan since 1997, which has forced road commissions statewide into more cost effectiveness. This has resulted in the county strictly working to maintain the roads, using less people and equipment.
But now the county has reached the point where it has fixed and patched roads as far as it can and the base of many roads are beginning to crumble — which means reconstruction and resurfacing is needed.
“The quality of the roads is starting to decline,” said Daly. “I liken it to the roof on your house. There are things you can do to prolong the life of the roof — you can put new shingles on, you can put a second roof on top of the first — but eventually the base of the roof is going to rot and you have to replace the entire thing.”
Passage of the proposal, Daly said, will mean stabilization of declining roads and by the second year of the new fuel tax, he suspects the public will begin to see improvements.
“It took 20 years to get into this position,” said Daly. “You can’t just throw a wad of cash at it and expect that to fix it.”
He urges voters to look at the proposal with responsibility and if people cannot support the tax increase then he asks that they come forward with a plan of their own to fix Michigan’s roads.
Daly said he also does not want to see the proposal become a “political football.”
“That would be a disservice to the residents of Michigan,” he said. “Some issues should not be about politics.”
Flint Township Supervisor Karyn Miller prefers to remain neutral. She said she would not endorse or oppose State Proposal 1. Instead, she will focus her efforts on renewal of the township’s road millage, which also in on the May 5 ballot. The board is seeking a 10-year millage renewal to continue generating funds to fix secondary and subdivision roads that do not benefit from state or federal road funding.