Fixing Our Roads without Raising Taxes
Senator Patrick Colbeck
Recently, Detroit Free Press Columnist Brian Dickerson took issue with my citation of a Reason Foundation study noting that MI spends 53% more per mile than the national average on our roads. I cite this statistic because roads are typically priced out on a per mile basis. People who favor an increase in taxes to fix our roads cite per capita road spending statistics. However, road projects are not priced out per capita. The dollars per mile statistic is clearly more applicable.
I am as frustrated as many of you are with the conditions of our roads. As we seek to fix our roads, we need to remember that Michigan already has the 5th highest gas tax in the country. As an elected official, I owe it to the people of Michigan to ensure that your tax dollars are spent in a manner that respects how hard you work to earn those dollars.
It is clear that there is a big push by special interests to simply throw higher taxes at the problem. Billboards and fancy websites saying “Just fix the roads” don’t grow by themselves. Many in Lansing are attempting to convince voters that the only viable solution to fix our roads features increasing taxes. I am simply attempting to broaden the discussion and demonstrate that there are ways to fix our roads without reaching deeper into your wallet. I believe that increasing taxes should always be the LAST option pursued. Too often, however, it is the first option pursued.
So, what are these other options? There is limited space in this column to go into too much detail here, but, as I outlined in my road solution posted at www.SenatorPatrickColbeck.com, there are three principle alternatives to taxes when it comes to fixing our roads.
The first is to prioritize existing revenue to go to roads. Republicans have already increased road funding by $840M in this manner over the past 4 budget years. The second is to reduce costs. There are many ways to reduce the cost of maintaining roads including warranties, longer-life design and the motivation of enhanced transparency. We can also free up funds for roads via expense reductions in other budget areas. The third option is to pursue alternative revenue sources that leverage existing state assets in new and innovative ways.
These are just some of the options to fix our roads without raising taxes. If we were simply to focus on expense reduction opportunities, we could remove the need for alternative revenue sources altogether. The most significant of these opportunities would be to implement my Patient-Centered Care Solution in Michigan (SB 459 and 460). Based on findings in the State of Washington where they have implemented key components of this solution, we have the opportunity to provide our Medicaid enrollees with better health care while saving Michigan taxpayers up to $7B, including $3B that could be appropriated to other priorities such as our roads.
I am committed to fixing our roads. I simply believe that tax increases should only be pursued once all other options have been exhausted.