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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

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?

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