Kerry Bentivolio, the “accidental Congressman”, has a solution for the atrocious problems facing Michigan road repair. He wants to — and I’m not making this up — give the federal money spent on road repair in Michigan to Republican legislators who have shown absolutely no interest in fixing our roads for the past 2+ years.
In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press today, Bentivolio says the answer to our problems is to revamp the Federal Highway Fund. His plan, as spelled out in legislation that he has co-sponsored, has three components:
- Grant “all authority regarding federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period” – that’s the “Give it to Michigan Republicans” part since they control everything in our state.
- Decrease the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents to 3.7 cents – because nothing says “we want to fix our crumbling transportation infrastructure” more than defunding it by 80%.
- Issue states a block grant with “fewer federal strings attached to it” during the transfer the funding of road repair back to states over a five year period. Bentivolio conveniently forgets to mention that these grants disappear in five years.
None of this has anything to do with fixing our roads and none of it will actually improve that. Bentivolio makes this statement in his op-ed:
The federal government makes a terrible middleman. The Transportation Empowerment Act helps Michigan while decreasing federal taxes. In 2012, our state paid more than $1 billion into the Federal Highway Trust Fund. After the money went to Washington and became entangled in red tape, Michigan’s buying power fell to an estimated $823 million. Nearly 20% of our gas tax went to the bureaucracy rather than infrastructure.
Reading that, you’d think that this legislation will make sure that we will have an extra $77 million to spend on road repair. But that’s not the case at all. This legislation wants to “cut out the middleman” — the U.S. federal government — and put the responsibility as well as the full tax burden for road repair in the hands of the states. In fact, we will have none of that $1 billion unless state lawmakers replace the federal gas tax with a new tax levied by the state of Michigan. What are the chances of that? Let’s consult the Magic 8-Ball:
“Outlook not so good”
Given how our legislators have been handling road funding for the past few years, this legislation should strike terror into the hearts of all Michiganders. Mike Nystrom of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association estimates that we need to spend $2 billion to fix our roads because of how badly they have deteriorated under the GOP’s watch. Governor Snyder asked for $1.2 billion. Given the dominance of tea partiers in the state legislature and their refusal to spend tax money on virtually anything he’ll be lucky if he gets half of that.
This “solution” is not only not a solution, it will ensure that our precious transportation infrastructure crumbles in to gravel and rubble. What it WILL do is put the decisions about and taxing responsibility for road spending back on the states so that Bentivolio and his tea party pals can say they’ve reduced the size of the federal government and lowered taxes.
It’s no wonder the new legislation is called the Transportation Empowerment Act. Look at the acronym:
[CC Magic 8-Ball photo credit: ☠ dementia ☠ | Flickr]