News Story

House Passes On Chance To ‘Fix The Roads’ With New Spending Bill

But money for Capitol security cameras, Michigan Speedway traffic control, tourism marketing and much more

During the 2018 gubernatorial and legislative campaigns, the condition of Michigan’s roads was one of the most prominent issues. There were political claims made that Michigan roads are the worst in the country, with some politicians calling the roads dangerous.

Yet 16 months after the 2018 election, in the first state budget enacted by the legislators and governor elected that year, lawmakers allocated less money for transportation than they did in the previous year. That is the first time this happened since 2014.

This week the Michigan House of Representatives had another chance to “fix the roads” when it passed a supplemental spending bill, adding $271.8 million in state dollars to the previously enacted 2019-2020 state budget. The bill included $50 million to fund the state’s response to the new coronavirus. It also included money required to pay some large legal settlements the state has agreed to.

But once again, fixing the roads appears to be a less compelling priority 16 months after the election. There is no additional funding for transportation and road repairs in the new spending bill.

Here is a sample of some of the other priorities that came ahead of road repairs:

$3 million to the Michigan Animal Agriculture Alliance to do animal industry research.

$1 million to county fairs, shows and expositions.

$3 million to the expand the scrap tire market in Alpena.

$16 million in marketing subsidies for the tourism industry.

$35 million for a career and job training program for adults.

$500,000 for city of Lansing security cameras around the state Capitol.

$500,000 for traffic control services benefiting Michigan International Speedway.

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave the nationally televised Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, she spoke about government needing to spend more on infrastructure.

“During my campaign, people told me to ‘Fix the damn roads,’ because blown tires and broken windshields are downright dangerous. And car repairs take money from rent, child care or groceries,” Whitmer said, according to U.S. World News Report.

The national news site reported: “Her speech thrust a national spotlight on a regional issue. In Michigan, the condition of the roads has long amounted to a kind of statewide obsession; using the slogan ‘Fix the damn roads,’ Whitmer made the issue the centerpiece of her successful 2018 election campaign.”

The amount of state transportation spending in the 2019-20 Michigan state budget, the first approved by Whitmer, fell to $3.61 billion, down from $3.64 billion in the last budget signed by then Gov. Rick Snyder. The supplemental budget approved by the state House this week adds no more to that amount.

“Despite agreement from both Republicans and Democrats that taxpayers should spend more money on roads, the dispute about whether to raise taxes to do it led to declines in road funding,” said James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “And now it seems that they can agree to spend additional money on anything but road repairs.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.