Governor Snyder’s proposed 2015-2016 budget addresses transportation funding in terms of “Driving Michigan Forward.” Unfortunately, the Governor’s transportation allotment leaves Michigan’s transportation system stalled.
Speaking to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, Governor Snyder again recognized the need for comprehensive transportation funding. Since 2011, the governor has urged the legislature to come up with way to add over a billion dollars to the state’s transportation program, but the legislature has failed to agree on a plan for raising the money. Despite alluding to Michigan’s “billion dollar problem” several times during his presentation, Snyder recommended a one-time cash infusion from the general fund of $254 million in 2015 to shore up Michigan’s transportation infrastructure—only a fraction of the estimated $1.3 billion in annual investments needed to maintain and improve our system.
$139.1 million of the Governor’s recommendation will go towards matching federal funds, and the other $115 million will be used for state trunkline and bridge projects. Ongoing funding for state transportation (close to $3.4 billion) and public transportation ($341 million) would remain similar to 2014 levels, despite the need for additional funds.
Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle told legislators in October that transportation funding is a simple case of pay now, or pay more later. Failing to realize a funding solution by 2015 will already cost the state $5 billion more to bring 90% of state trunklines into good condition, compared to fully funding the system today. Governor Snyder told legislators that by 2024, Michigan residents will pay an extra $26 billion if no additional funds are provided. The data show a clear and present need for additional transportation funds, yet the Governor’s anemic response was just “let’s keep working on it.”
Budgets reveal priorities. By putting comprehensive transportation funding on the back burner Governor Snyder is holding back Michigan’s transportation future and burdening Michigan residents with increasing costs and lost economic opportunities. Deteriorating roads and congestion continue to cost Michigan drivers hundreds of dollars each year in lost time and vehicle repairs. Michiganders are losing out on potential public transit options, which save individuals money and create economic opportunities. Crumbling roads and bridges remain a serious safety concern. Snyder’s budget has not convinced us that transportation funding is a top priority for his administration, or that he will renew pressure on the Legislature to come up with a funding solution in 2015.
While all Michigan residents are feeling the effects of inadequate transportation funding, Southeast Michigan’s Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has acutely felt the consequences. Snyder signed the RTA into law in 2012, but without a dedicated source of funding. Over a year later, the RTA has lost a potential CEO largely over funding issues, and stands in nearly the same place it did at its inception. Governor Snyder’s 2014 executive supplemental budget calls $2 million from the general fund to be allocated to the RTA. This is a step in the right direction, but the Governor needs to maintain pressure on legislators to get the funding into law. The same goes for $2.3 million intended for AMTRAK improvements between Dearborn and Kalamazoo—the recommendation is encouraging, but the Governor has work to do to until the funding becomes permanent.
Governor Snyder said that as a CPA, he makes decisions based on numbers. The data clearly show that transportation funding is a sound investment in Michigan’s future. The Governor must strengthen his stance on transportation funding and re-engage legislative leadership to get a funding solution passed. Otherwise, Michigan’s deferred expenses will continue to be an anchor on competitiveness and economic growth.
By: Jeff Prygoski, Fellow, Transportation for Michigan