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Voters kill road-funding proposal


By Judy Reed

Hopefully the legislators have ears to hear what the voters told them in no uncertain terms Tuesday—go back to the drawing board and figure out a better way to fix Michigan’s roads.

Proposal 1, one of the most confusing proposals Michigan residents have ever voted on, was soundly defeated with 1.4 million voting no, and less than 350,000 voting yes. It is the most one-sided loss ever for a proposal – 80 percent no, 20 percent yes.

Kent County voted 72 percent no, 27 percent yes. Turnout ranged from 4 percent to 49 percent. The City of Cedar Springs had a turnout of 17 percent.

The proposal would have raised the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, removed the sales tax from fuel sales, increased fuel taxes, and raised vehicle registration fees. The changes were estimated to raise tax revenue by $2 billion, with most going for roads; it would also have increased funding to schools, local governments, and mass transit; and given a tax break to some lower income families.

But voters weren’t convinced that the government would do what they said they were going to do with the money.

“In some ways we feel like road agencies and Michigan’s crumbling transportation system were road kill due to an overly-complex ballot proposal,” said Denise Donohue, director of the County Road Association of Michigan.

“The road funding message was an easy sell. Michigan drivers, bus riders, bicyclists, truck drivers and businesses all get the deplorable condition of our roads,” Donohue said. “But the unfounded charges of too many special interests in this bill, and the fears that the Legislature would somehow divert these dollars from road repairs proved too much to overcome in a 10-week timeframe,” she said, alluding to the 10 weeks the County Road Association (CRA) spent trying to educate voters. “But in the end, voters have spoken: they wanted a cleaner road funding solution dedicated specifically to road and bridge repair.”

The CRA estimates it would take $2.5 billion to fix Michigan’s roads. “County road agencies are doing absolutely the best job we can, but we’re working with band-aids, pothole patch and too many temporary solutions,” said Burt Thompson, PE, president of CRA, and engineer-manager of Antrim County Road Commission in northern Michigan. “As a licensed professional engineer, I can attest that our roads require more holistic treatments like resurfacing, milling up existing surfaces, repaving, and replacing thousands of weakened, rusting culverts.”

Gov. Rick Snyder issued the following statement after Proposal 1 failed to garner a majority of votes on Tuesday:

“It’s essential that making Michigan’s infrastructure safer remains a top priority. While voters didn’t support this particular proposal, we know they want action taken to maintain and improve our roads and bridges.

“The ‘relentless’ part of relentless positive action means that we start anew to find a comprehensive, long-term solution to this problem. Doing nothing isn’t an option as the costs are too great. Michiganders need to be able to get behind the wheel and not worry about dodging potholes or seeing plywood to catch crumbling concrete under overpasses.

“We appreciate that this bipartisan plan was supported by so many groups—business leaders and unions, public safety officials and local governments, teachers, and the list goes on. I plan to work with my partners in the Legislature on a solution that gives Michigan residents the safe roads they need and deserve and bolsters our growing economy.”

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