* The Capitol news service MIRS is paywall protected, but I wanted to share some basic data it collected on salaries for top political appointees in Michigan.
“Salaries of the department directors as of Jan. 10, 2013:
- John Nixon, Department of Technology, Management and Budget: $250,000
- Mike Flanagan, Department of Education: $189,515
- Andy Dillon, Department of Treasury: $174,204
- Gregory Vadnais, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs: $167,237
- James Haveman, Department of Community Health: $146,450
- Dan Heyns, Department of Corrections: $146,450
- Kriste Kibbey Etue, Michigan State Police $146,450
- Kirk Steudle, Department of Transportation: $146,450
- Dan Wyant, Department of Environmental Quality: $145,000
- Jamie Clover Adams, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: $145,000
- Maura Corrigan, Department of Human Services: $145,000
- Keith Creagh, Department of Natural Resources: $145,000
- Dan Kirchbaum, Department of Civil Rights: $136,000
- Attorney General Bill Schuette: $124,900, *pay rate set by SOCC
- Secretary of State Ruth Johnson: $124,900, *pay rate set by SOCC."
* Michigan's debate over road funding is not unusual: "In the search for more transportation money, governors and state lawmakers are largely avoiding one of the most obvious and straightforward funding sources: state gasoline taxes. ... Instead, they have proposed selling bonds backed by higher tolls, tapping reserves or surpluses, taxing miles driven instead of fuel bought or hiking income or sales taxes. In fact, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell wants to get rid of the gas tax altogether."
* The Amtrak passenger rail service carried almost 800,000 ridersin Michigan in 2012, a record. The Michigan Department of Transportation said greater awareness and a more positive view of train travel contributed to the passenger growth. And this is with a limited service that's been plagued by delays.
Part of the challenge for improvement is, as Amtrak passengers will tell you, operating a passenger rail line on rail routes used and owned by freight companies.
As a 2009 state-sponsored study put it: "Freight railroad ownership of the rail lines with the resulting control of dispatching duties has caused problems with on-time performance of passenger trains. Some of the line segments have heavy freight train volumes that often delay passenger trains, producing persistent on-time performance problems."
For perspective, look at the map below of rail lines. Now, imagine if the interstate highways were owned not by the public, but by, say, FedEx, with a state motor travel agency leasing space and time on the highways for drivers.