Snyder is a Republican. Why do his experts want to spend more, not less?

Because two issues – crumbling infrastructure and declining public education – seriously threaten to drag down the state economy over the long term.

The Flint Water Crisis was not an isolated local tragedy. The Flint Water Crisis was a canary in the Michigan infrastructure coal mine. People everywhere need safe water. Businesses everywhere, especially Michigan’s manufacturing base, need robust and dependable sewage and transportation systems and other infrastructure. A national study in 2015 estimated Michigan’s bad roads were costing motorists $5 billion a year in repair costs.

Last November, a business-heavy, Snyder-appointed commission delivered its verdict: Michigan needs another $4 billion a year to maintain and upgrade the state’s massive network of pavement, pipes, and communications infrastructure. The total unmet infrastructure need over the next 20 years? $60 billion. The commission also documented that Michigan’s current infrastructure investment is well behind the national average and all Midwestern peer states.

Two months ago, a Snyder commission on education concluded Michigan needs to invest $2-3 billion more per year to upgrade its declining public education system.

For nearly two decades, test scores of Michigan school children have fallen compared with peers across the country. This is true for white and more affluent students as well as low-income students and students of color. Current K-12 spending is 5 percent below where it was in 1995, when adjusted for inflation. Beyond K-12, tuition has risen rapidly and students at Michigan’s 15 public universities now take out about $2 billion a year in student loans. Michigan now ranks 9th lowest in the nation in state support for higher education.  

Among the Snyder education commission’s 150-page laundry list of what needs to happen: Better teacher training, better student counseling, universal access to community college, more funds for at-risk students in high-poverty schools, deeper investment in universities, and deeper investment in and access to early childhood programs. The education commission argued that these investments will lead to more jobs and higher incomes in the longterm, and help make Michigan more prosperous.

NEXT: How could Michigan cut income taxes AND spend more on education and infrastructure?

About The Author

John Bebow

John Bebow is president and CEO of the Center for Michigan. Prior to joining the Center in 2006, he worked for 16 years as a professional journalist.

Mike Wilkinson

Mike Wilkinson is Bridge’s computer-assisted reporting specialist. He can be reached at mwilkinson@bridgemi.com.

Ted Roelofs

Ted Roelofs is a Bridge contributor based in Grand Rapids. He can be reached at ted.roelofs@gmail.com

Comment Form

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Comments

Craig Ellis
Wed, 05/10/2017 - 9:13am

This is very misleading. The money to maintain infrastructure was not set aside for the purpose taxpayers led to believe. The money went into Michigan's "General Fund" where it was consumed by short-term cycle spending demands rather than 40 year capital cycle demands. In other words, the people were told one thing and the state did another. Secondly, "education" spending has risen EVERY YEAR for 60 years without respite yet education RESULTS have declined. It is NOT taxpayers who have failed in their duty...it is educators. Worse, none of this will change if you fail to do your homework and promote true change. Political leanings notwithstanding, facts are facts and you are not presenting them...you are merely stating "positions".

AnnafromA2
Sun, 05/14/2017 - 11:26am

Two things - while the Flint Water Crisis did indeed demonstrate the critical importance of maintaining and replacing infrastructure, the root cause of the lead contamination was the incompetence and improper certification/training of the Flint Utilities Manager and the Water Plant Manager for their jobs. They didn't know what they clearly should have known, that water not previously treated with anti-corrosives needed that treatment before being pumped into any older water system. There was a provision in Flint's water rates, and a Federal grant to replace and upgrade infrastructure over time; that money was misappropriated by Flint's city government. Increased infra-stucture spending is certainly needed, but we must include safeguards against such misappropriation and require contractors to guarantee their materials and workmanship.

Second, K-12 education has been funded better than any other basic need in this state, even during the Great Recession. Teachers' purchasing power has been much better protected than almost all employed Michiganders. Unfortunately, K-12 educators have almost universally been focused more on closing the racial achievement gap instead of on maximizing learning for all students. I'd be happy to pay more in tax to increase the funding for the lowest-funded school districts. I'd also like to eliminate the loopholes that allow school districts to pass millage after millage and bond after bond to increase spending on athletics and construction far beyond what's affordable given their state-provided funding.