Back in February, “Crazy Kerry” Bentivolio published an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press expressing his strong support for something called the “Transportation Empowerment Act” (TEA), legislation sponsored by ardent Tea Party Caucus members Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Representative Tom Graves (R-GA). The TEA would do the following:
- Grant “all authority regarding federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period”.
- Decrease the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents to 3.7 cents.
- 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.
At the time, I could do nothing but roll my eyes at this ridiculous idea which is supported by groups like Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth and tea party legislators like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Jim DeMint and rejected by other groups the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, County Road Association of Michigan, and Michigan Laborers District Council. First of all, returning control over all highway and transit programs to Republicans who have done almost nothing to fund road and bridge repair after a devastating Michigan before going home for the summer is nothing short of mind-blowingly stupid. Also, what Bentivolio failed to mention in his op-ed is that the block grants that this bill contemplates are phased out after five years.
The result is that states would then be forced to raise the revenue that the TEA takes from by raising taxes on themselves – nearly $1 billion. In Michigan, there is a 19 cent tax on gas that goes toward transportation. In order to raise the sort of money that the TEA would siphon out of our budget, even if you factor in the mythical 20% that is consumed by government regulations — the “federal strings” that Bentivolio talks about — Michigan would need to raise its gas tax by $823 million a year. That would nearly double our state gas tax and that’s just to replace the revenue this law would take out of our budget.
Given Michigan Republicans’ utter lack of courage and leadership when it comes to raising revenues to solve the huge road repair problem in our state, I feel pretty certain they wouldn’t even raise taxes enough to keep up, much less figure out how to raise the other $2 billion needed to fix our roads.
Crazy right? Tea party crazy.
Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Terri Lynn Land to the stage:
My Michigan First plan for Roads, Bridges and Highways includes:
- Gradually reduce the Federal Gas Tax:Over several years, Congress should reduce the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax to around 4 cents and allow states to decide how they can best pay for the transportation infrastructure they need. During this transition, Michigan’s transportation infrastructure projects would be funded through federal block grants.
- Eliminate Federal Bureaucratic Red Tape: States lose up to 20% of our gas tax dollars complying with Washington’s rules and regulations. Cutting out the federal government will save billions of dollars over the long term. That means more money spent on asphalt and steel, and less on red tape.
- Let States Decide: Empowering states to make decisions about how to maintain, build, and upgrade their transportation infrastructure will produce better, more locally oriented decisions. I want people from Michigan, not bureaucrats deciding how to run our transportation infrastructure.
If that all sounds familiar, it’s because Land has now thrown her full support for the TEA, the catastrophically bad tea party idea. In fact, she’s attacking her Democratic opponent for the U.S. Senate race Gary Peters for “siphoning off money” from Michigan and claiming that “her” idea puts “Michigan First”.
As I’ve said previously, 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 Washington, D.C. Republicans can say they’ve reduced the size of the federal government and lowered taxes.
Meanwhile, back in Michigan, we’re left hoping our tea party-dominated legislature will raise taxes by nearly $3 billion so that we can fix our roads. Fat chance of that.
Thanks, Terri, but that’s not putting “Michigan First”. That’s Washington, D.C. political cowardice that forces states to raise taxes on themselves.
But that’s Terri Lynn Land: Not ready for prime time. Not ready for the U.S. Senate. The Michigan Embarrassment.
[Caricature by DonkeyHotey for Eclectablog. Adapted from: Wikipedia – State of MI]