Speer: Traveling the highway funding road


Everyone drives on one. Everyone grouses about one. No one wants to pay extra for one.

That is the reality legislators, road commissions, highway departments and taxpayers face everywhere.

The attention on Michigan roads might shift a little next week, after Gov. Rick Snyder gives his State of the State address Wednesday. In pre-speech interviews this week, the governor indicated the state’s highway and bridge system would be one of the topics he intends to address.

Readers will remember talk about road improvements surfaced last year in Michigan as well, but with the November election no legislator was eager to go on record about how best to raise funds to begin an infrastructure repair program.

If I conducted an opinion poll right now about the need for road repairs in the state, I’m betting on a better than 90 percent response saying yes, repairs are needed. It would be the next question, however, where differences quickly surface. That question would be “how best to fund such repairs.”

Funding sources have haunted road repairs forever. I’m curious to learn whether the governor has any better insight to possible solutions than what previously has been considered.

While November elections are behind legislators, there still appears little support from Republicans at the Legislature to want to enact anything involving more taxes. And, where once Gov. Snyder might have counted on some Democratic crossover support for road funding initiatives, with Right-to-Work still fresh on everyone’s minds, I expect that cooperation is but a dream now.

Thus, I believe Snyder is going to have to be extra creative in explaining how he proposes paying for improvements.

In a meeting I had with northern Michigan legislators in late November, when I asked them what the priority would be in Lansing after the election, the first two things we debated were Right-to-Work legislation and highway funding.

I’m confident legislators are prepared to begin road discussions.

That’s the easy part. Pardon the pun, but we’ve been down that road many times before.

How to pay for those repairs, now there is the real crux of the problem.

I’ll be listening anxiously Wednesday evening to the governor’s suggestions.

Personally, I expect extra fees and taxes tied into auto and truck repairs for things like tires, batteries or parts to be some of his proposal.

One way or the other look for 2013 to be the year for new highway funding options, and projects, here in Michigan.