TIM SKUBICK: Talk won’t fix Michigan’s infrastructure
Now that the governor has imposed an Emergency Manager on Detroit, he needs another one for the state
It’s been 17 months since Gov. Rick Snyder uncorked his multi-year $1.2 billion blueprint for uncrumbling the state’s crummy infrastructure.
Since last year was an election year, the administration conceded nothing would be done until after the Republicans in the Michigan House were safely re-elected. They did not want to vote on a tax hike of any kind that would have endangered that.
The election came and went and guess what? Nothing’s been done. Now the GOP senators are worried about their next election next year.
And there sits the governor with basically nothing to show for his patience and it’s getting worse.
Led by Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw) a couple of months ago it felt like a head of steam was growing toward raising some new revenue. There was substantial chatter about using the sales tax and maybe even dragging the voters into the mix.
A deadline was set, a deadline was missed.
On another front the governor’s original thoughts about refiguring the gas tax and upping the car registration fees were on the table for a while as Republicans did not want to diss their governor. But eventually they did and those ideas are now under the table, sort of like the gum you used to hide under your desk in high school.
What gummed up the works (sorry couldn’t resist), was Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Township.) The standard bearer for the Tea Party in the GOP controlled Senate doesn’t much like tax hikes ... few Tea Partiers do ... but he didn’t want to just say no, so he crafted his own package of ways to fix the roads without taxing you to get there.
Problem was most of his stuff was not fully vetted, many of the ideas were long term and some grumbled that some of the ideas would not work.
But Colbeck’s proposal gave the Senate Republicans an excuse to continue the discussion which has been on-going since 1997, the last time the legislature raised revenue for the roads. Too bad talk can’t fill the potholes.
The Senate GOP leader, who has to keep his conservative caucus happy, is now talking about getting something done by summer break just like last year when they talked about getting something done after the election.
As the clock ticks, the cost of the fix creeps upward which must drive this governor batty.
His minions are frustrated with the inaction as they are relegated to saying, “Well at least everyone now agrees there is a problem.”
Big deal. What is needed is some solutions yet the Republicans keep hoping they can find new dollars by squeezing more fat out of the Department of Transportation budget. But even the conservative Michigan Chamber of Commerce tells the Republicans you can’t find $1.2 billion there or anywhere else for that matter.
Like the screaming kid who doesn’t want to swallow his medicine, lawmakers are kicking and screaming to avoid raising more revenue even though their doctor, Mr. Snyder, wants it.
And here’s the ironic twist. Republicans have embraced an emergency manager for Detroit claiming the city did not have the guts to make the tough decisions to solve its budget mess. Thus someone had to do it for the city.
Yet here they are, guilty of the same behavior over fixing the roads which is why the governor needs a legislative Emergency Manager.
Maybe if the governor bumps the salary of the Motown emergency manager Kevyn Orr he can get this job done, too.
Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.