Grand Rapids used to tremble when heavy rains fell since downpours often meant nasty sewer overflows. Today, the city rests easier after investing in a long-term upgrade that reduces the odds that raw sewage will flood river waters.
Waukazoo Elementary draws students from affluent lake homes. Pine Creek kids come from Holland’s poorest neighborhoods. In ways large and small, Waukazoo kids benefit from their families’ extra income.
Lake County competes for the unwanted title of Michigan’s poorest county. Like many rural areas across the state, Lake residents endure higher poverty, serious health and social ills, and little hope for the future.
Republican lawmakers don’t want to be seen as supporting tax increases. Democrats want to blame Gov. Snyder for Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure. The result: a shortage of lawmakers willing to lead the charge for better roads.
Many in Michigan’s business community favor increasing fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, saying crumbling roads make it difficult to do business, and attract new businesses and visitors to the state.
Michigan spends less per capita on roads and bridges than any other state in the nation, and it shows. Experts say the state needs even more than the $1.3 billion requested by Gov. Snyder to make long-term improvements. Legislative leaders aren’t convinced.
Gov. John Engler was urged by the business community to raise fuel taxes up to 12 cents a gallon to fix Michigan roads and bridges. He agreed to a 4-cent raise. It wasn’t enough over the long haul. Today, MDOT pays $240 million a year on a $2.5 billion debt to repair roads.