Michigan roads are a big mess. Here are eight big ideas to fix them.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaigned to “fix the damn roads.” She’ll unveil her plans to do so when she unveils her first budget next week.

March 5: Six big proposals in Gretchen Whitmer’s first Michigan budget
Update: Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to fix Michigan roads: Nearly triple gas tax

Most agree Michigan’s atrocious roads need fixing. And most realize the price tag is in the billions of dollars.

The big question: How do you raise that kind of money?

Just days ahead of the March 5 roll-out of her first budget, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer isn’t revealing her plans, teasing a Detroit Regional Chamber crowd on Thursday that everyone wants to know how she’ll “fix the damn roads.”

Borrowing money is possible, but many Lansing officials tell Bridge Magazine they are thinking bigger: Higher sales taxes, property tax reforms, income tax changes to make the wealthier pay more or other tax increases to address other Michigan problems beyond roads.

“I think it’s a good time for a lot of things,” said state Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance. “I don’t think anything’s off the table.”

Sheppard said he prefers a 1 penny increase in the sales tax, from 6 to 7 cents, with the additional amount dedicated to roads

His proposal is likely to be one of many, less than four years after approval of a 2015 roads deal that raised fuel taxes and registration fees to add $1.2 billion annually.

But most experts now concede that money wasn’t enough and even more is needed to erase years of disinvestment in the state’s infrastructure.

“There’s no way we’re going to fix this problem that’s been 50 years in the making without coming up with new revenue for infrastructure,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said following Whitmer’s State of the State address in February.

Roads are such a top issue, there’s “growing support for doing something big, something that makes a true impact on our economy,” said John Sellek, a GOP strategist and former spokesman to Bill Schuette, the Republican former attorney general whom Whitmer defeated for governor in November.

“The citizens of Michigan are not going to let us do nothing again,” agreed Sheppard.

Here are some proposals, how they might work and likely obstacles.

Related: Is 2019 the year Michigan joins the rest of America on public records?

Solution: Increasing the sales tax

March 4: Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to fix Michigan roads: Nearly triple gas tax

Sheppard proposes raising the sales tax by one penny to 7 cents per $1 and dedicating the increase entirely to roads and infrastructure. Based on current taxes, that could raise $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion a year.

Impact: A family of four making the median household income ($54,909) in Michigan would see an increase of $125 a year, to $877, based on numbers provided by the IRS.

Advantages: It would not require a lot of other changes, but would need to be approved by a vote of the people. The tax would create a more stable source of revenue since the increase in fuel efficiency and move to electric cars has lowered fuel sales (and taxes) without reducing wear and tear on roads.

Disadvantages: It’s a tax increase, and many Republicans have taken a vow never to raise taxes. Democrats also may oppose increasing the sales tax because it’s considered regressive, meaning it disproportionately affects lower-income residents. And judging from recent history, residents aren’t keen on it either. In 2015, voters by a 4-to-1 margin rejected Proposal 1, which would have raised the sales tax to 7 percent for roads, schools and transit.Solution: Bump up the fuel tax

A group of former lawmakers has proposed a 10-year, 47 cent increase in fuel taxes –  roughly 5 cents a year for a decade – that would generate $2.6 billion a year when fully implemented.

Impact: For a family with two cars that drive 30,000 miles a year combined, at 30 miles per gallon, the tax would cost an additional $470 a year when fully implemented.

Advantages: The tax increase would keep all fuel tax money in roads and would address the estimated $2.6 billion in additional funding needed to fix and maintain roads, as identified by former Gov. Rick Snyder’s infrastructure commission.

Disadvantages: It would nearly triple Michigan’s fuel tax and make it much higher than neighboring states. And as fuel efficiency increases, tax revenues would dip. Sheppard, whose district is near Ohio, said a higher fuel tax would send even more people across the border to get gas, even though Ohio’s new Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has recently called for an 18-cent increase in that state’s gas tax.

[Disclosure: The Michigan gas tax increase proposal came from a group known as the Michigan Consensus Policy Project, which includes The Center for Michigan, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that publishes Bridge Magazine. Phil Power, the center’s founder and chair, serves in an advisory capacity on the project. Bridge’s editorial staff has no role in the proposal, and the Policy Project had no role in writing this article.]

Opinion: Everyone – not just drivers – should pay for Michigan roads

Solution: Diverting all sales tax on gas to roads

Michigan is one of only a handful of states that levy a sales tax on gas. That’s atop the state’s 26.3 cent a gallon gas tax, meaning that when gas is $2.12 a gallon, that includes a 10.5 cent in sales taxes.

But none of that money, an estimated $1 billion, goes toward roads. Instead it’s placed into the state’s budget and 75 percent of that goes to the school aid fund.

A recent study suggested removing the sales tax and replacing it with a gas tax of the same amount. It’s a proposal backed by House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

Impact: Minimal –  and that’s one of the benefits. Motorists wouldn’t notice a net change at the pump, paying the same amount for gas while enjoying a $1.5 billion bump in road repair money.

Advantages: Politically palpable. Would keep the overall price of gas lower as it creeps toward $3 or $4 a gallon.

Disadvantages: Removing the sales tax creates a billion-dollar hole in the state budget, much of it in K-12 education. It would force huge cuts or a separate tax increase to make up the difference.

Looking beyond roads for a solution

Many of the leading proposals to fix the roads are piecemeal solutions, which would only address one problem in a state with many needs. So some in Lansing are pressing for a bigger solution.

“Everyone has to be prepared to swallow something unpalatable,” said Adrian Hemond, CEO of Grassroots Midwest, a political consulting firm in Lansing.

And Hemond said that may mean getting painfully creative: “The best way to solve the problem is to make it bigger.”

Big solution: Reforming Proposal A

Hemond and others believe big changes could open the door to changing how Michigan funds education, which was radically altered after voters approved Proposal A in 1994. Property taxes plummeted as the state instituted a flat, 18-mill tax on homes (24 on businesses) and increased the sales tax from 4 to 6 percent.

It’s been a largely popular reform but hamstrung local governments and other taxing units. Changing Proposal A has been a non-starter in Lansing, but Shirkey said last week he’s open to at least looking at changes.

“We should review it,” Shirkey said. “That doesn’t mean we should change it.”

Changing Proposal A could address stagnant school funding. A recent study shows Michigan is 48th in per pupil spending growth since 1995; in the last 15 years, student test scores have fallen well below other states.

“We do have a revenue problem when it comes to schools,” said Don Wotruba, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

No legislation is pending on Proposal A. Here are a couple options, all of which would require not only approval from the Legislature but also a vote of the people:

Solution: Raising the statewide education property tax

Impact: Raising the current 6-mill statewide education property tax by 1 mill would raise $325 million, according to Snyder’s infrastructure commission. That would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an extra $50 a year –  or $150 if it was raised 3 mills.

Advantages: A property tax increase would shift even more of the burden on owners of valuable property.

Disadvantages: Michigan voters were angry in 1994 with rising property tax rates and boosting the statewide millage might spark further anger.

Solution: Allowing local districts to raise taxes

School districts are now limited to asking voters to fund mostly capital projects, like repairing or building schools and facilities. One change could allow them to ask local voters for more money for operations –  like paying teachers and pensions.

Impact: Doing so would give local school districts more control over funding. Depending on millages approved, it would raise taxes on residents. Every added mill would add $50 to the annual bill of the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

Advantages: Could ease budget shortfalls in some districts.

Disadvantages: Could lead to inequitable funding among school districts, which is one reason lawmakers approved Proposal A a generation ago.

Big solution: Graduated income tax

No Republican is talking about this one, but some Democrats want to change the state’s 4.25 percent flat income tax and replace it with a series of graduated rates, with wealthier residents paying higher rates.

“I’ve been trying to start this conversation for a while,” said state Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.

Irwin and state Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Pleasant Ridge said a graduated income tax could raise a billion or more dollars a year while lowering taxes to a majority of residents.

Impact: For most state residents, their overall tax bill would go down, Irwin and Wittenberg said. How? Incomes above $1 million would be taxed at or just below 10 percent; everyone making below $80,000 would pay less than they do now. From $40,000 to $80,000, Wittenberg’s proposed rate would be 4 percent. It’d be 6 percent on incomes from $80,000 to $160,000 and increase up to 10 percent for income over $1 million.

“I think people universally recognize when things are unfair and they’d like to see something like this implemented,” Wittenberg said.

Advantages: People seem to like the idea of having the wealthy pay more: national polls following U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a 70 percent rate on incomes over $10 million have shown support for the idea. Even a poll done by Fox News, a conservative outlet, found similar support including among Republicans.

Disadvantages: Higher income taxes could scare away the highest earners, including the business owners the state desperately wants to keep and attract. And Michigan voters haven’t been keen on it –  they soundly rejected graduated income tax proposals in 1968, 1972 and 1976.

But times have changed, said Michigan State University economist Charles Ballard. Back then, the top earners made 10 times what middle incomes made. Now, it’s nearly 30 times higher.

Ballard said the yawning gap is apparent to the vast middle and the idea of imposing higher rates on the wealthiest residents “would resonate in ways maybe it didn’t 50 years ago.”

But getting it on the ballot? “Everybody understands it’s an idea going nowhere,” said Hemond, a Democratic consultant.

Big solution: Expand sales tax to services

Other big ideas also face hurdles, like expanding the sales tax base by including many more services. That was tried during the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration, when legislators approved –  and almost immediately repealed –  a 2007 sales tax on services.

Impact: The cost for haircuts, sporting events, legal advice would be subject to the sales tax from which they are currently exempt. Granholm recommended a $1.3 billion expansion in 2010. It was not approved.

Advantages: With the state’s spending habits moving more from products to services, the expansion would capture more commerce and perhaps allow the overall sales tax to be lowered.

Disadvantages: People would pay more and businesses could get squeezed. The only winner might be lobbyists –  an army of special interests would descend on Lansing to try to exempt different services. This is less likely than graduated income tax.

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Comments

Kevin Grand
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 7:02am

I'm shocked!

I'm really shocked that each and every "solution" entails a tax hike.

Nah, just kidding!

I wouldn't expect anything less from The Bridge.

Just as I wouldn't expect anyone to address WHY the roads aren't lasting in the first place, which only exasperated the issue.

Don
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 8:41am

Have you notest that roads like the Divison ,I 75 and other Express way built befroe John Engler and Jen GrandMold gave no contract bids to Carlo Road construction, Roads lasted over 40 to 50 years,,, Divison allready has pot holes!!!

Kevin Grand
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 7:32pm

And this would explain the "need" for emergency repairs on I-75 barely two months ago on the same stretch I-75 that was just rebuilt not even two years ago how exactly?

Shoddy work is shoddy work.

Unless Lansing finds the wherewithal to address the underlying problem behind this "need", you can dump as many truckloads of cash on the problem as you'd like.

It won't get any better.

Judith S
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 10:50am

Thanks for article. It was helpful.

J Mueller
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 8:29am

Helpful article gathering of ideas. Two things though that don’t make sense. 1) How are you connecting impact of increased sales tax with average family _income_? It doesn’t seem like a family income is related to how much they soend on goods taxed. 2) You mention a graduated income tax instead of flat rate for the _wealthy_. But that isn’t the right word. It should be for the “high taxable income” people. Someone can have a very high income and not be wealthy. Also, someone can be very wealthy and not show much in taxable income (muni bonds, unrealized capital gains, etc...). Net worth (related to wealth) and taxable income are very different categories.

John P
Tue, 03/05/2019 - 8:33am

You are absolutely corrrect

Tom Ivacko
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 8:34am

While this article isn't directly focused on general purpose local government (beyond issues of roads), it is important to consider the system of funding local government if major state revenue reform is on the table. Sixty-four percent of local leaders believe the state's system of funding local government is broken and needs to be fixed (as of a 2016 survey, and that is up from 58% in 2012). Among the top targets they would support is reforming the Headlee Amendment, but there is also considerable support to modify Proposal A: 43% support reform vs. 22% who oppose it. As documented by Bridge and others, many Michigan communities are still struggling almost a decade after the end of the Great Recession. If major funding reform is underway, it would be a terrible mistake to not think bigger still about how we fund local governments.

http://closup.umich.edu/michigan-public-policy-survey/57/local-officials...

Chris
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 8:37am

How about not making soany money sucking redundant environmental departments. The more you add the less effective they are.

Craig Reynolds
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 3:29pm

Specific examples, please.

Dave
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 8:37am

Why didn’t you include a review of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Fund? It’s over $20 billion, growing every year while driver assist technology is going to reduce accidents into the future. Seems reasonable to see if some of this money could be used to help fix the roads

Don
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:06am

before GrandMold we got money back every year from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Fund!

Bernadette
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 6:26pm

Childish remark. No surprise!

David Waymire
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 10:41am

That’s not true.

Rob B.
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 8:58am

Agree with Kevin Grand. These eight solutions are simply bandaids on a larger structural problem in Michigan. Those solutions that shift tax revenues will only exacerbate funding shortfalls for other government services like education and local government.
There is no single reason for Michigan's financial woes and therefore no silver bullet, but the largest cause of our problems is that we encourage and keep building sprawl. Providing services and infrastructure for an ever-spreading geography of residents and businesses cost more money. Doesn't matter if its roads, education or public safety. And sprawl generates less revenue on a per unit basis because it is on average less economically productive. Until sprawl is addressed, we will just keep digging a fiscal hole that will be harder and harder to climb out of.

Don
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:11am

WHY are roads built before John Emgler and Jen GrandMold come into office lasted for over 50 years... The Davison, I -75 and others?
John Engler started giving out no contract bids to his friends like Carlo! And allow them to use sub-standard materal, and use ghost employees! > OUR AG needs to go after these crook and get OUR road money back from them!!!

Patricia Nelson
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:46am

The majority of states have a graduated income tax; it's time for Michigan to dump its regressive system, which taxes working class peoples at the same rate as people making 100 times as much.

Mike
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:29pm

I completely disagree! A flat tax rate is the fairest. A person earning 100,000 pays 4,000 in income tax. A person earning 10,000 pays 400 dollars in income tax. They already pay significantly more. What needs to happen is these contractors need to start guaranteeing their work.

Patricia Nelson
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:47am

The majority of states have a graduated income tax; it's time for Michigan to dump its regressive system, which taxes working class peoples at the same rate as people making 100 times as much.

TKD
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:49am

Increase both gas tax and sales tax. Goes to infrastructure and education needs. You use more you pay more. You buy more you pay more. Stop trying just to have more paid by the rich. They drive more with gas guzzlers they pay more. Buy more expensive things they pay more. Very high fines on all motorists who talk and text and get thosecaught driving while drinking. Split between infrastructure and education.

Carole Currier
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:57am

I think most will agree that the road problem began with a sub-standard build, which consequently led to pot holes, crumbling, etc. The base of the road is the most important part. The Autobahn in Germany has an 8 foot base. I believe Michigan needs to revise its standards for building roads before deciding how to pay for rebuilding them.

James F Bish
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 4:34am

Agree with Carole.

Bethany Delaney
Sat, 03/23/2019 - 4:03pm

They should try that 8-foot base on I-69 in the Charlotte area where the pavement is so bad that it buckles every summer.

Ron
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 10:09am

New revenue is required. Since 2000, Michigan has ranked dead last among the states in annual per capita highway capital investment - $155 vs a national average of $300.

But the discussed solutions mix up two issues - (1) how to generate revenue for highway investment and (2) what is the fairest and most efficient tax structure for Michigan, given all other public service demands. A potential dramatic (BIG) solution for roads is to think about mileage fees: 1 cent per mile = $10 per month for the typical driver and $1 billion annually in new road revenue for the state.

But it also makes sense to include many services in the sales tax base and to switch to a progressive rate income tax, not just for roads, but to make the state tax structure fairer and more efficient and to provide support for all services including education.

https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2019/02/14/michigan-roa...

Ben W. Washburn
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:39pm

Thanks Ron: Of all of the 32 comments made so far to this article, your's is the most thoughtful and pragmatic with regard to roads funding. Yes, adding to the sales tax would tax poor folks who can not even afford a car. Diverting the gasoline sales tax mainly just takes money away from our schools (4 cents of that 6 cents goes to the Educational Fund), and Michigan increased funding for schools over the last 15 years ranks among the lowest in the nation. Focusing instead upon the number of miles that each of us drive during the year, and taxing that is probably the very best measure of the benefit that we each receive from the use of our roads. I can appreciate some of the complications of enforcing such a requirement, and the prospect that it would engender a group of folks who could profit by charging some folks a lesser rate for setting-back their odometers. But, I think, that the great majority of us are honest and would be happy to pay more in that particular manner for better roads. And yes, I would also support charging heavy trucks a multiple rate per mile for their use of our roads.
Finally, I would not interlock adequate road funding with educational funding. I think that most voters are unable to deal with such an interlocked mix, and would vote "no" mainly just because they can not appreciate the interlocked mix. And that means that we will not be able to fix either of these top priorities.

George Ehlert
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 10:10am

Increase the State Property Tax from 6 mils to 8 mils, dedicated to K-12 to allow removal of sales tax from gasoline - to be offset by an increase in gas tax (no net increase). Revise Headlee to remove inflationary cap on Non-Residential Property. In the recession, commercial property values plummeted and will never recover their taxable values while capped.

John S.
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 10:37am

Reading the article, the political hurdles to raising taxes appear to be nearly insurmountable. Where will majorities be found in both the House and the Senate for each of these policy options. The CRC proposal (removing the sales tax on fuels) and increasing the fuels taxes looks like something that might secure majorities. That done, there likely would need to be some combination of increases in the sales tax, income tax, or corporate tax. Otherwise, there would be need for budget cuts. K-12 is not going to be cut. Public universities won't be cut. Is there more to cut from local revenue sharing? Probably not. Corrections and Medicaid are likely targets. As always, people want to use public goods (roadways) but just as soon have the other guy pay for them. Don't tax me, tax that guy behind the tree.

Bill Laidlaw
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 10:42am

The owners/drivers of electric vehicles, as well as hybrids, need to contribute their fair share to road maintenance. They pay little or no gas tax but use the roads as extensively. There needs to be a fair assessment on those vehicles.

Barry Visel
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 11:30am

Other than sales tax, the rest of the tax expenditure budget is never mentioned (tax credits, deductions, exemptions and incentives). Eliminate them all! Make the sales tax less regressive by lowering the rate to 3-4% but apply it to all purchases which would raise $1-3Billion (and forget any exemptions).
Don’t tax any personal income up to the poverty level (income defined as coming from all sources), but continue with the current flat rate for everything after that (remember we’ve already eliminated all the credits, deductions, etc., so there would be more income to tax, and presumably it’s the higher income categories that take most advantage of deductions, credits, etc., so they would automatically pay more).
PS: I’m still waiting for the analysis that adds up how much we think we underfund everything (roads, schools, underfunded pensions, local government, housing, Sr citizens, water, sewer, etc., etc., etc.). Actually, I’m wondering if anybody thinks we fund anything at the right level?

LH
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 1:22am

Actually, at both the state and federal levels (mostly federal), there are significant tax credits that benefit only people at lower income levels. The Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, and, at the state level the property tax and home heating credits all are designed to help low-income folks. While these credits are well-intentioned, too many people have learned how to game the system and maximize these credits while working as little as possible. I'm a tax preparer, and it's not uncommon to see someone who works just long enough to earn $12,000 to $15,000 leave my office expecting a "refund" of $8-10,000. I put "refund" in quotes because usually only a small part is withheld taxes that they are getting back. Refundable credits make up the rest. At the same time, someone earning $40-45,000 who withholds at the recommended level often receives a refund of a few hundred dollars at best. While wealthy folks do enjoy significant loopholes and credits, the notion that the very wealthy do not pay their fair share is generally a fallacy. One of the better summaries of this can be found at https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/taxes/top-3percent-of-us-taxpayers-paid-....

Harry Price
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 11:31am

Stop building Turn-Abouts all over Michigan. They're Expensive, Confusing, Usless & Dangerous. How do Pedestrians cross them, Big Semi Trucks can't navigate them, these things are Outrageously Stupid. Traffic Lights, Yield Signs, & Stop Signs work just fine, always have, so stop wasting money on Turn-Abouts & lets get on with the Fixing the Damn Roads.

Greg Olszta
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 11:33am

Yes to a graduated State of Michigan income tax. This is the only fair way to tax residents, provided there are NO loopholes and exemptions favoring the wealthy!

Barry Visel
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 1:07pm

Someday I hope to see an explanation of how charging different people different tax rates is considered “fair”. And if you read my provious comment you know that I agree with your “no loopholes” approach...for everyone.

Craig Reynolds
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:06pm

OK - simple arithmetic and budget problem: Flat tax rate @ 5% on AGI of $50,000 = $2,500, leaving $47,500. But income earner at that level is also paying FICA /Medicare taxes on TOTAL income @ .0765% or $3,825, or reducing net usable income AT MOST to $43,675. Now off the top of your head, try doing some simple math by deducting costs for housing and food and clothes and car and insurances and maybe a movie or two, not to mention what the spouse and maybe children might need. Got that? Now, flat tax rate of 5% on AGI of $200,000 = $10,000, leaving $190,000. Of course there MAY be FICA etc on this (unless it's "unearned" income) BUT FICA itself applies ONLY to the "first" $132,900 of wages, or $8,239.80, while Medicare INSURANCE @ 1.45% applies to all these earnings, or $2,900, leaving this worker with net income of $188,860.20. Now do the little mind exercise regarding the other costs and see what you come up with. You should also come up with one answer to your question. If you can do the arithmetic.

Barry Visel
Mon, 03/04/2019 - 4:16pm

I have argued before to eliminate the FICA cap (on the employee side) as a means of “saving” Social Security (assuming it needs saving). Both of your ‘straw man’ examples will benefit from Social Security at retirement. Other than that I don’t see the problem with a flat tax...unless you think everyone should have the exact same spendable income after taxes. One example earns 4x more than the other and pays 4x more in income taxes...how is that not fair?

Aaron Fulton
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 11:51am

It's just a money grab the road will never be fixed as long a politician are in charge they created the problem than tell you how they will fix it and always a tax increase, need to pave the roads with politician instead of asphalt

Christine
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:06pm

Of course, the rich must be taxed, not just to pay for the roads, but everything our country requires. They get the benefits, one way or another, of everything that taxation provides. No matter if you keep your yacht in the Cayman Islands or not. They have gotten billion dollars free rides long enough.

Barry Visel
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 1:47pm

But, don’t tax them at higher rates, just eliminate all the loopholes which effectively means they will pay more.
Income tax should be simple...just 3 components: Add up all income from all sources, subtract an amount equal to one’s poverty threshold (which will be different based on family situations, but is intended to provide a base level of income to live on), and multiply by the tax rate which should be the same for everyone.

Matt
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:13pm

The easiest way is rarely the best, making this may be a good time to modernize our road funding. Making people more conscious of their driving habits isn't a bad thing. But saying that, the tendency of many Bridge commentors to always favor taxes being increased on someone else is quite annoying, remember people will do what they can to avoid taxes and ultimately move elsewhere.

Joe
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:29pm

Lower the sales tax rate, but expand it to include services. Period. We have moved from a goods economy to service economy, but have not adjusted the way we tax to reflect this.

Larry V.
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 1:19pm

Finding additional monies to fix the roads is necessary, but what's more necessary is broader reform to protect roads once they're fixed. That means cutting our highest-in-the-nation weight limits from 80 tons to the national average of 40 tons. It means limiting commercial truck traffic to the right-hand lane on highways except to pass, and actually enforcing that provision, and then adding extra reinforcement to that lane and the middle lane in the build. And it also means reforming the legislative budgetary process overall, so that monies passed by voters for schools go only to schools, and monies passed by voters to be dedicated to roads go only to roads, and so on.
Put a broad, legislative package together, including a return to make Michigan a tort state again and end no-fault, take half of the money ($10 billion) from the Catastrophic Claims Fund as a down payment, and give it to voters in one big package.

John Q. Public
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 1:23pm

I won't vote for any increase in any tax--even as I acknowledge both the need and my willingness to pay--unless the power over spending the school aid fund is vested in a body other than the state legislature. Their ability and demonstrated willingness to steal from the schools has left me irrevocably committed to--at a minimum--bifurcated spending authority of the state budget. I've lost all faith in my fellow citizens' ability to elect a single competent, ethical legislative body.

Arjay
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 1:49pm

Tax the rich? At the federal level you could put a 100% tax on the rich and it would barely dent the deficit. If the tax becomes too high, the rich simply declare residency at another house in a lesser tax state or country. The federal tax code and the way Michigan piggybacks on the federal form means it is very easy to avoid paying tax. The money to be had from the rich is very limited. Now if you want big bucks, what percent of the Michigan budget is state run Medicaid? I believe 25% of Michigan residents are on Medicaid. Don’t like the sound of that, then what other program can be discontinued? You can’t print money.

Craig Reynolds
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:35pm

Before a headlong rush to make sick people sicker because they can't afford being sick, it should be pointed out that while just a few or five decades ago, payments by Corporations comprised ONE-HALF of Federal Revenues from Income Taxes but now are LESS THAN 10% , and that Governor Nerd and the Republican Majority in the Statehouse of Michigan gave those same businesses a $1.9 BILLION ANNUAL TAX BREAK by ELIMINATING that income tax without caring one whit as to how to make up the shortfall. As for making a dent in the National Debt, you ever heard of long-term debt payment plans?

Kenneth Darga
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:20pm

I believe that people should finance society's overhead costs in proportion to the economic benefits that they receive from living in that society. This concept is quite different from 'ability to pay,' but the practical implications are the same. People who use the roads to get to high-paying jobs receive more economic benefit from the roads than people who use them to get to minimum-wage jobs, yet they pay the same gas tax. Someone whose income is derived from investments receives benefits from the roads without necessarily paying any gas tax at all--without the roads, most companies' employees would not get to work, their products would not get to market, and their shares would have little value. If we did not live in a society, we would be lucky to have a subsistence income. One way to support our civilization in proportion to economic benefit received is through a graduated income tax that exempts subsistence income from taxation.

Mike
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:21pm

Uhh, I don't like any of those ideas! Gas tax is already too high, Sales tax is too high, Property taxes are too high. The least evil is probably income tax. All tax payers would share in the burden. Why I am on the topic of income tax, I need to get this off my chest. I am by no means a wealthy person, actually far from it. It drives me crazy when I hear about just taxing the wealthy. "They should pay more, blah, blah blah". I look at it this way, a flat tax is always the most fairest. Someone who makes 100,000 pays 4,000. Someone who makes 10,000 pays 400. How is that not fair?

paul
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:31pm

Get rid of lame duck and save a billion every two years on pet pork projects for a start.

Mike
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:33pm

I think these contractors need to start guaranteeing their work. They make millions on these projects. Whichever department awards these contracts, they need to look at quality of work performed not just the cost. Cheapest is usually not the best.

Todd
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 5:44pm

I'd be fine with raising a few taxes BUT, they will NEVER use that money appropriately. They will squander it. I don't trust them.

Dennis
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 6:13pm

1. When is "The Bridge" and other such publications going to investigate misuse of funds by MDOT; specifically their annual [THEFT of] exorbitant administrative fees, i.e. making around 50% of revenues disappear into so called administrative costs.
2. When are we going to learn that a maximum truck weight of 80,000 lbs. is what needs to be the standard on Michigan highways. after all, it works well in other northern States.
3. I believe that roads like I-275, which has been repaved 11 times in the past 23 years, need to be looked at for substandard materials, and poor quality construction methods. Contractors need to be held accountable, and required to warranty their work.
4. MDOT Engineers, for reasons I don't understand, are NOT operating with the same standards of planning and construction as other northern states. But, only the now retired personnel will engage in this conversation. WHY ?
Until these things get "fixed" it won't matter if you throw $1 Billion or $1 Trillion at the problem ….. nothing will really change.

James Conroy
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 10:48am

The one potential solution not mentioned in the article is turning our interstate highways into toll roads. Illinois and Indiana recognized that, by creating toll roads, they were able to pass the cost of road maintenance on to 1) travelers and 2) long-haul truckers. Illinois was also smart enough to tell its residents, "Get an iPass device, and your tolls will be significantly reduced (in many cases, by 50%). That way, a disproportionate amount of the toll revenue came from out-of-state travelers.
The technology involved in turning freeway exits into toll exits is mature, proven and cost-effective. An annual resident tollPass, costing less than the alternative sales tax increase, would mute most of the resident objections, and front-load road repair dollars.

Bob Short
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 12:08pm

Put the gas tax back into a separate fund like it used to be till the early 1960's! Before it was put in the "general fund?" Michigan was either #1 or#2 in the nation for having the best roads! After that politicians couldn't seem to find money for the roads! Too many special interests involved.

duane
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 3:30pm

When getting (spending] more money is the only thing everyone is interested in, I can assure you there will never be enough money. People inside and outside government seeing a new bucket of money will all be trying to spend all of that money and more. A new and overflowing 'bucket' of government money will spread a 'sweet smell' of more money drawing new 'flies' to get their piece of it.

The rule of government/organization money; when money is the center of attention it pushes out effort to deliver improved results. This article proves the rule, the title suggest our roads will be fixed, but not one word is about how the roads will be made better, how we will get better value for all the money they are trying to spend, nothing about how the money/spending will be held accountable, there is nothing about the roads [local]or maintenance/construction or disruption.

If we don't start with what we want about roads in the future we will only get what we have been getting [what we are complaining about]. I wonder if Mr. Wilkinson has driven do the local roads and wonder why they are so rough, why it takes so long for a road to be repair or built, how will the roads accommodate the new technology for cars and trucks, or does he think money is 'magic' and the more of other people's money the government has to spend all they have been doing will magically become right and the roads/bridges will be just right.

Before we grab more and more of other people's money we should be asking why are roads failing, how can roads use technology to improve the ride and life of roads, how can maintenance be done smarter and better, how can we manage the roads better, all the questions that once answers will tell use how much money is needed, even how best to get the money.

Lorraine Howlett
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 9:44pm

I'm all for a graduated income tax and raising the sales tax from 6 to 7 cents. The current income tax is regressive and the people who are wealthier can afford to pay 10%. I'm opposed to all sales tax on gasoline going to fix the roads since it takes away from educational funding unless Proposal A is redone and gives schools more money.

bob eiferd
Sun, 03/03/2019 - 12:23am

In Illinois and Indiana main roads have toll booths. People that use the roads pay for their use. The roads in both of these states are well constructed and well maintained. Has anyone in Michigan Government every mentioned this solution?

Verona
Sun, 03/03/2019 - 7:51am

Make the truckers Assoc pay more for their heavy weights. We are the only state with the lowest truck fees and the highest heavy truck traffic.

S N
Sun, 03/03/2019 - 9:00am

Finding part of a funding solution may be like the game “Where’s Waldo.” To play, you need not run over a big pothole or get sucked into a sinkhole. Just scratch the surface a bit. No question equitable property taxation should be on the table. For an example, $6,000-7,000 mid-year taxes, for a home purchased for $2MM and marketed for sale at $3.5MM?Ludicrous - when you have crumbling roads and ailing schools; police, fire, and other public service needs benefiting all citizens. Where’s Waldo? Hint and example, when you check public property taxation record and information that can simply be Googled. For example, try a recently advertised (by one of your media competitors) piece of property billed as an estate, paradise at 3888 SWANEY ROAD, Traverse City by Mark Hagen real estate. A good human interest story might also be found in looking at owners of such properties advertised for sale, similarly to those curious about how much Government employees make - afterall the information is publicly available just with a few keystrokes and Google.

James Constantine
Sun, 03/03/2019 - 2:44pm

Raising the sales tax from 6% to 7% is a good solution. $150 annual increase for average income amounts to 41 cents a day increase. That will not be missed by anybody in their daily budget. Legislators just have to be absolutely sure this $$ really does go to fixing the roads.

Steve
Mon, 03/04/2019 - 7:30am

People, taxes are going up. Period. But if we don`t change our behavior, nothing will change. Meaning, get rid of 80 ton trucks. And use more hot sand and less rock salt. The Bridge had an article that $50.00 worth of salt does $750. worth of damage to the infrastructure, cars and roads. Not to mention to our lakes and streams. Yes shoddy workmanship needs to go away, a host of new ideas need to be implemented. But attitudes must change. Drive slower, drive smarter.

Rod
Mon, 03/04/2019 - 7:18pm

Why not use better premium concrete like they do in Europe? The concrete is a little more expense but lasts much much longer and does not break down as easily from weather or salt.

Travis Saunders
Tue, 03/05/2019 - 10:57am

SO TIRED of money being the issue. TRY looking at the product we are paying for and the abuse the State inflicts on it.
Its time to hold accountable the ASSCLOWNS that get paid millions to build these roads and have them accountable for PISS poor quality!!! Secondly, Stop throwing salt on the roads in the U.P. for a week and they cleared the roads and covered in sand. a little salt on the outer lines. Instead of leaving all the stress cuts open seal them up!!! Morons create relief cuts int eh roads allowing the water to get into the crack and expand during cold times. A SOLID SEALED SURFACE won't deteriorate. SO many other people to hold accountable. Need to be smarter.

Phil Chaffee
Thu, 03/07/2019 - 9:56am

We need to STOP being lied to. PERIOD. Whitmer lied to get elected, she said she would NOT raise the gas tax during the debates. They currently use most of the current gas tax to fund schools, what happened to the lottery money and the property taxes? There would be more than enough with the Lottery and property tax money. Where is ALL the money going? Drain the pension fund of the State legislators, STOP the life long pensions, this is Public service not a retirement plan. Stop the health care for life, stop ALL of the expenditures that have NOTHING to do with properly running our State. Do what is right for ALL the people, not the special interests. Require term limits, increase Representatives terms to 4 years, allow two terms (eliminates have their time in office running for office), Senators stay at 6 years, allow two terms, and at MOST, upon completion of their service to the people of the State, put NO MORE than the equal of (1) one years salary into their own pension. - This should be done on the Federal level as well.

Bethany Delaney
Sat, 03/23/2019 - 3:59pm

I noticed in West Virginia that most of the potholes on the freeway are on the painted area of pavement. And a lot of the pavement around the white dotted marks has been replaced. There must be something about that paint that destroys the surface.