Guest Column

Digging out from the past to continue drive forward

November 2, 2018
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How Michigan can improve its roads and infrastructure is an important issue. We’ve all heard the campaign ads, but I encourage our citizens to take a hard look at the facts and the recently passed funding that is ramping up to finally deliver progress that Michigan deserves on this important issue.

In 2011, Michigan’s transportation investment per capita ranked last in the country. In 2012, the West Michigan Policy Forum took on this issue, making transportation investment a top priority.

In 2015, there was a ballot effort to increase taxes to fund our roads; I didn’t love the ballot proposal but supported its passage with an op-ed similar to this (and my vote) because we needed improvement.  The voters spoke clearly in rejecting this approach as overreach.

The problem remained, however. Therefore, in 2015 the legislature crafted and passed a compromise that will devote $1.2 billion more to our transportation infrastructure annually by dedicating half of this funding ($600 million) from existing resources. Additional revenue also comes from doing things like tying the diesel tax paid by semitrucks to the gas tax paid by cars and adjusting registration rates to ensure vehicles that don’t use gas contribute toward our roads. Further, the legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder smartly phased in the added investment to avoid causing inflation and ensure this new money is used efficiently and effectively.

By 2021, the state will have invested $9 billion more because of the 2015 compromise solution. In fact, when fully implemented, transportation investments will be more than double what the state made when Republicans were given the responsibility to govern in 2011.

Yes, we are all frustrated that all our roads are not fixed, yet. But, just like in business or at home, if infrastructure is ignored and maintenance lapses, it takes dedication, hard work and time to recover and improve.

Michigan is on the road to recovery, let’s not derail that recovery. Attendees at our recent West Michigan Policy Forum conference voted and overwhelmingly confirmed they disagree with candidate Gretchen Whitmer’s debt or tax proposal — now is not the time to raise $2 billion in more taxes, which would more than double the current gas tax to over 70 cents on every gallon of gas.

Slogans are easy. We all want immediate results, especially on something as frustrating as our bad roads. But as we continue to dedicate more funding, it’s going to take a lot of orange barrels and construction seasons to recover; we didn’t get into this mess overnight, so unfortunately, we won’t be cured overnight. Let’s encourage our next governor, no matter who it is, to have the patience, foresight and courage to continue Michigan’s growth and improvement. We’ve recovered from the bad times of the last decade. Now, it’s time to drive from good to great by continuing the path we’re on.

Matthew Haworth is the chairman of Haworth Inc. and serves as the vice chairman of the West Michigan Policy Forum.

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