by Scott McClallen
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday night announced her Rebuilding Michigan plan to “fix the damn roads,” using an additional $3.5 billion in road funding through state road bonds without an increased gas tax.
Whitmer said she will ask the State Transportation Committee Thursday to issue state road bonds to expand 122 new road projects.
“Our roads are dangerous, and the longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to fix them,” Whitmer said. “That’s why I’m taking action now to fix the damn roads and keep Michiganders safe. My Rebuild Michigan plan will ensure we start moving dirt this spring and save us money in the long run.”
But the governor said she needs help from the GOP-controlled legislature.
“I’ll work with them when they’re ready, but in the meantime, I’m going to get to work fixing our state roads on my own,” she said.
Bonding would allow construction to start sooner and dodge the Republican-controlled legislature, which blocked her proposed 45-cent gas tax hike in 2019.
Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, criticized Whitmer’s bonding plan.
“I guess I didn’t really hear a plan, except for, ‘We’re going to max out the credit cards because I can’t work the lawmakers to get the proposal I want on my desk,” LaFave said.
LaFave said bonding wasn’t a long-term, viable solution, and compared the state budget to home finances.
“What you don’t do when you have a long-term problem is use short-term debt solutions to fix it,” LaFave said. “If every time you pay all the bills at your own home and you come up $1,000 a month short, you don’t just put it on a credit card.
“And that’s exactly what she’s doing here. You need to either find a way to cut some of the fat, go out to dinner less, maybe, and find a way to get that extra $1,000.”
Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, said he wanted more information about the bonds, including how much debt would be pushed onto future Michiganders.
“Because we didn’t give her a 45-cent gas tax, her going directly to bonding, that may not be the prudent thing to do,” Barrett said.
He suggested the state could use other funding sources to jumpstart projects, such as the more than $1 billion in the Rainy Day Fund.
Michael LaFaive, senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center, told The Center Square that bonding was unnecessary.
“Bonding to finance road repair is as unnecessary as last year’s $2.5 billion tax hike proposal,” LaFaive said. “The governor and state lawmakers could look to growth in state revenues and other budget reforms to improve roads going forward.”
Whitmer said the state will break ground this year on the Milliken Visitor Center on Mackinac Island in honor of Michigan’s longest-serving governor, William Milliken.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.