During last Thursday’s State of the State Address, Governor Snyder branded Michigan the Comeback State, outlined plans for 2014 and highlighted successes of his administration throughout 2013. Unfortunately, an increase in transportation funding could not be included in his list of successes and was merely a minor topic in his list of plans for the upcoming year.
A call for increased transportation funding has languished on the Governor’s agenda since 2011 without any long-term results. The Governor has avoided forcing the issue thus far, despite starved public transit systems throughout Michigan communities, the yet-to-be-funded Regional Transit Authority in Southeast Michigan, and inadequate non-motorized and inter-city transportation options across the state.
Governor Rick Snyder during the 2014 State of the State Address Image Source
The legislature has made a one-time addition of $350 million to roads specifically, while bypassing funding other components of the transportation system such as non-motorized and public transportation infrastructure improvements. These limited, short-term contributions do nothing but merely delay the inevitable of real change in Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. Although not discussed in the Address, the $1.3 billion state budget surplus could also provide some reprieve to our suffering system.
A bare-bones bus stop in Detroit that lacks basic aspects of pavement for ADA accessibility, route information, maps, schedules and shelter (photo courtesy of Aly Andrews)
While Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director, Kirk Steudle and transportation advocates state-wide continue to reiterate the importance of investing now to decrease costs in the future and to improve the quality of life in Michigan, legislators are avoiding the issue. Law makers are not willing to support a ballot measure to increase taxes or fees to the level needed for a long-term fix during the election year and without pressure from Governor Snyder, that won’t likely change. In a recent interview on Michigan Radio, House Transportation Committee Chair Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) said that a long term fix is unlikely during 2014. House Speaker Jase Bolger recently told the Detroit Free Press that revenue increases for transportation funding are unlikely in the next year.
If the State of the State Address is any preview of this year’s legislative action, law-makers won’t be hard-pressed from Governor Snyder to make any real progress on long-term transportation funding increases this election year. However, Trans4M members and other advocates will continue to push for change.
Megan Owens of Transportation Riders United (TRU) plans to hold the Governor accountable: “TRU thanks Governor Snyder for his continued support for transportation funding. We and our partners will continue to push him and the legislature to provide the increased funding to support the public transit systems that so many individuals depend on. Funding support for the RTA is the first step in that direction.”
Railroad passenger advocate John Langdon of MARP echoed similar sentiments: “We’ll continue to let the Governor and legislature know about all the great work being done in Michigan for passenger rail — and that we need more state money to offer the traveling public more options. We won’t give up.”
Dave Bulkowski of Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC) also said “We will continue to work with Gov. Snyder in every way possible to move the transportation funding issue in the legislature. Michigan cannot wait any longer to improve our non-motorized and public transit infrastructure that currently prevents and hinders access to jobs, healthcare, housing options and community involvement.”
The need for a comprehensive, modern and sustainable transportation system grows exponentially each term that this issue is avoided. If the Governor is going to tout Michigan as the Comeback State, he must pressure the legislature to adequately fund a modern and comprehensive transportation system that prioritizes transit, passenger rail and non-motorized infrastructure – not wider urban highways. To build a backbone for economic development, population growth, public health and education we need a system that can support Michigan’s comeback and create a foundation for prosperity in our communities today and in the future.
Watch the full version of the 2014 State of the State Address here.
Written by Liz Treutel, Trans4M Fellow
Cover photo: Michigan House Republicans