Governor Whitmer outlines her path to fix the damn roads and more
By Vanessa Denha Garmo
As soon as she was elected the 49th Governor of the State of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer hit the ground running as she transitioned her campaign stump speech to her first year in office tour to “Fix the Damn Roads.”
Along the way, she made a stop at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield to address the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce.
“The Chaldean community is incredibly important to the health and welfare and future of the economy of the state and that is why I wanted to have this conversation with you about where we are headed as a state,” said Whitmer. “The first year of the first term, the governor has about 2 ½ months to write a budget which really takes about five months to write.”
She outlined the problem and her reasoning behind the ask for the 45- cent gas tax increase. “We stopped investing in the foundation of our state,” she said, “the literal foundation and the figurative foundation.”
She continued to say that the state of Michigan stopped investing in education, roads, bridges and clean drinking water.
The total budget in Michigan is $60.2 billion. The discretion is in the general fund. Other funds are restricted. The general fund is more than $10 billion. It funds a variety of state programs.
It has not grown in 20 years but the costs of services have increased. The state’s ability to pay for these services have not grown.
“Had that fund kept up with inflation, it would have more than $5 billions more in it,” she noted. “We have a state infrastructure that is literally crumbling.”
She described a legislature that kept moving money around from fund to fund to do short-term fixes on roads, water and education.
Whitmer’s budget plan to fix the crumbling and dangerous roads goes beyond the pothole patches and could also impact her plans to significantly boost spending on education and environmental improvements.
The national standard for roads is that the 90 percent of them should be in good to fair conditions at all times. In Michigan, 78 percent are in good and fair condition. “In terms of Infrastructure, if you are not rebuilding, you’re deteriorating,” said Whitmer, “There is no such thing as status quo.”
If we don’t invest in roads, in three years the 78 percent of roads in good to fair conation will be at only 60 percent, according to Governor Whitmer.
“Study after study has shown that we have the worst roads in America,” said Whitmer. “The state that put the world in cars has the worst roads in America right now.”
On the large screen, the Governor showed a map of where we have bad roads in America, that the dots are everywhere.
She also showed photos of potholes that included a pothole patching truck stuck in a pothole.
The state has taken money from the school aid fund to shore up the general fund diverted to fill potholes. Michigan is dead last in educating children in literacy proficiency.
“If we don’t get education of our children right, our economic future and their standard of living is all compromised.”
She is focused on what she has deemed fundamental. She is also focusing on talent and education. Only 44 percent of adults Michigan residents have a post-secondary degree or a certification.
Today we have PFOSS leaching into drinking water systems across Michigan. It is a fundamental issue that the Governor is focused on.
She plans to fix roads, education and drinking water. Her goal is to have 90 percent of our roads in good to fair condition by 2030. She plans to clean up drinking water. She wants 100 percent of communities to have good drinking water. Close skills gap by bringing down the cost of a college degree, which will enable companies to fill good paying jobs.
She wants Michigan to be a top ten state in education by focusing on literacy.
The state has a 2.5 billion infrastructure problem and she is proposing a 45-cent gas tax. She plans to ramp it up in a series of increases.
She also outlined why other proposed solutions don’t work including taxing marijuana which was a question from the audience.
“Pot for potholes,” she joked. “This question comes up all the time.”
The Governor even shared a slide on this issue. “Our roads is a $2.5 billion problem. It is so big it is hard to get your head around. Marijuana at its height is predicted to leverage 42 million in taxes to go to infrastructure….,” she explained. “Every man, woman and child would have to consume $2,500 in marijuana every year to raise those kinds of revenue. At that level, no one is going to care about the roads.”
She contends that there are not a lot of mechanisms to raise 2.5 billion dollars. Some have suggested to raise the corporate income tax. Gas tax would be dedicated to the roads under the constitution. Other increased taxes are not earmarked for roads. Others suggested raising the income tax which would include a vote of the people and hope the legislature appropriates the money for roads. This is the same for sales tax.
Some feedback included taking money from various tax increases, however, the fact remains that the only tax that can be solely used for the roads is the gas tax.