May Ballot Sets Precedent for Michigan’s Future

Michigan’s need for transportation funding looms over the state like a persistent cold that will not go away until addressed properly. While extensive Emergen-C and chicken noodle soup will not fix Michigan’s crumbling transportation infrastructure, the funding from the comprehensive bill package on the ballot in May has the ingredients to potentially alleviate many of Michigan’s ailments, and you have an opportunity to influence this decisive vote.

More than just transportation hinges upon the outcome of the vote in May. The ballot proposal will be “the lens through which everything gets done in the first six months,” said former Senate majority leader Ken Sikkema. “It has so many implications in it that are budgetary implications.” The $54 billion budget Gov. Snyder proposed on Wednesday only allocates $113 million from the general fund for spending on roads and transportation—down from $285 million in the current fiscal year and $451 million in 2014. With such low spending on transportation, the budget “does not provide much of a backup plan if the ballot proposal fails,” MLive reported. Without the additional revenue from the transportation package on top of the budget proposal, Michigan’s transportation system will struggle to operate. If the package does not pass, it’s back to the drawing board for legislators.

It is also important to note that funding for public education and for municipalities also hinges upon the vote in May. House Fiscal Agency analyzed the package and determined $300 million would go towards boosting public school funding, which Gov. Snyder has been pushing for throughout this year. Cities, villages, and townships would receive a much-needed additional $95 million in revenue-sharing payments. The decline in shared revenues has caused many municipalities to make cuts to beneficial personnel and service provision in their jurisdictions.

Should the proposal fail, it is important to realize there will be new faces in the mix. Central to the advancement of new transportation bills in the upcoming year are the newly appointed Senate and House Transportation Committee members, who are being briefed by experts on the current state of Michigan’s transportation funding status. They come into office with different backgrounds and outlooks on Michigan’s transportation issues. Here is a glimpse at the members and their voting records on the transportation funding package.

 

Senate Transportation Committee

Name Party District Hometown Voting Record on Package

Additional Info

Casperson (Chair) R 38th Escanaba YEA Helped establish SE Michigan Regional Transit Authority.
Horn (Vice Chair) R 32nd Frankenmuth N/A Served previously on the Committee of Courts and Public Safety. First-term Senator.
Pavlov R 25th Saint Clair NAY Owned and operated Dexter Equipment Company, which specialized in medium to heavy duty truck sales and heavy equipment repair.
Marleau R 12th Lake Orion NAY Founding board member of the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA).
Hopgood (Minority Vice Chair) D 6th Taylor YEA Major focuses are education, energy and technology and environmental issues.

 

House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee

Name Party District Hometown Voting Record on Package Additional Info
Pettalia (Chair) R 106th Presque Isle YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.
Glardon (Vice Chair) R 85th Owosso YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.
Cole R 105th Mancelona N/A First-term Representative.
Farrington R 30th Utica YEA Introduced 2012 HB 5464 with revised language to say a highway must be “reasonably safe and convenient for VEHICULAR travel” rather than “public travel.”
Goike R 33rd Ray Township NAY Owner of Goike Trucking and Excavating.
Jacobsen R 46th Oxford YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. Strong focus on making roads safe for all users but does not want to increase taxation to do so.
Lauwers R 81st Brockway YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.
Maturen R 63rd Vicksburg N/A First-term Representative. Serves as the chair of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners.
Yonker R 72nd Caledonia YEA Degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Focus on strong economy.
McCready R 40th Bloomfield Hills YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.
Lane (Minority Vice Chair) D 31st Fraser YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee as Minority Vice Chair.
Cochran D 67th Mason YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.
Dianda D 110th Calumet NAY Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.
Neeley D 34th Flint N/A First-term Representative. From Flint and served previously on the Flint City Council.
Rutledge D 54th Ypsilanti YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.
Smiley D 50th Burton YEA Previously served on the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee.

Although much of the allocated transportation funding from the budget will go toward preservation of current infrastructure, there will also be some new projects. MDOT acutely feels the pressure of the instability of yearly transportation funds, so planning for long term projects poses potential budget challenges. For example, MDOT received more than $50 million in discretionary bus and bus facility funding in 2012, while in 2013 that funding was reduced to less than $5 million. The year-to-year fluctuation is so great that planning for future long term projects becomes increasingly difficult and only the most pressing projects are prioritized.

With the proposal on the May ballot, the public is in a unique position to determine the outcome of the package. Is the proposal worth supporting? Gov. Snyder thinks so, he stated in his 2015 State of the State Address, “Now we need to ask our citizens to support that effort in May on the ballot. In the end what I need you to do is vote yes. Vote yes, so we can have safer roads. Vote yes so we can get rid of the crackling bridges and crumbling roads. Vote yes so we can have stronger schools and local government. Vote yes so we can have tax relief for the lower income people. There are only good reasons to vote yes.”

Know it when you see it! Here is the proposal language as it will appear on the ballot, may be subject to change:
Ballot 1

Written by Hannah Lensing, Trans4M Fall Fellow

Feature image found here.

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