On Cinco de Mayo, Michigan Voters did more than just celebrate Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, they got out and voted down Proposal 1 in historic fashion. About 1.4 million voters cast ‘No’ votes to only about 350,000 ‘Yes’ votes. In general however, many voters were confused, un-inspired, and generally angry with the people elected to make decisions for our state. Keep reading for an explanation of Proposal 1 and some thoughts on the ever-changing “Plan B.”
The main feature of Proposal 1 was to dissolve the current state gas taxes and replace them with a “transportation only” gas tax and an increase in the state sales tax from 6% to 7%. No sales tax would be charged to gas and all gas taxes would go to transportation. The state sales tax increase would replace the sales tax from gasoline and add several hundred million dollars to schools and local governments. This complexity, along with several other changes to registration fees, earned income tax credits, etc. confused many… for good reason.
The final nail in Proposal 1’s coffin was the general disdain for politicians. Many voters are simply fed up with local, state, and federal politics and politicians. Much of the legislature wants to fund transportation, but they don’t want to raise taxes. Hence, they followed the State Constitution and put the tax increase in the hands of the voters… and the voters made it clear what they thought of the plan.
Voters were told there was no Plan B and Proposal 1 was our last chance. Although Proposal 1 was voted down, a strong majority of the public supports increased transportation funding and wants a Plan B. Within 24-hours of the election several Plan Bs were making their way to the floor in the State Legislature. These plans are ever evolving and it is hard to tell what will be selected.
The fact is that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) maintains close to 9,700 miles of pavement and 4,750 bridges. The current funding levels are insufficient compared to the majority of our Great Lakes Neighbors. As a result, the conditions of our roads and bridges are inadequate and our vehicles are paying a price. Most agree that an additional $1-$3 Billion are needed annually to fund transportation. One or more of the Plan Bs below will likely be selected to increase transportation funding.
- Changes to the vehicle registration fee structure
- Different overhaul of the gas tax
- Flat, across-the-board spending cut placed into transportation
- Increase in the State Transportation portion of the gas tax
- Per-mile vehicle charges
- Sales tax increase for transportation
- Shift General Fund dollars to transportation
- Shift restricted funds from the DNR etc.
- Tap the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Fund
- Use of toll roads
What happens if we wait?
Every day that transportation funding is delayed increases the total amount needed to properly maintain our State transportation network. This is because the conditions of the network are continuously deteriorating and the costs of repairs are increasing. The most cost-effective pavement treatments are those performed early in the pavement life. Preventive maintenance such as sealing and thin asphalt overlays can save about $5 for every $1 spent.
The former practice of waiting until failure and reconstructing the infrastructure is much more costly than maintaining it over its life cycle. The longer we wait to act, the worse is the overall pavement condition, and the more costly will be the treatment. The longer we wait for funding the more likely will the treatments be those which require geotechnical investigations, foundation designs, and more substantial materials work.