What was Michigan thinking?

By |  May 11, 2015

Many states, tired of waiting for the federal government to properly fund highway infrastructure, are taking matters into their own hands. And a few are failing miserably. Last summer it was Missouri, where the state‚Äôs voters soundly defeated a proposed sales-tax increase of 3/4 cent to raise money for the repair of roads and bridges. This time it was Michigan. And, just as with Missouri last year, the state greatly underestimated the public’s unwillingness to vote itself tax increases.

Apparently not learning from Missouri’s mistake, Michigan asked voters for a full one-cent increase in the state sales tax — for roadbuilding and more — and the voter pushback was even stronger. About 80 percent of voters turned it down. This rejection may be the most one-sided loss for a proposed constitutional amendment in state history, USA Today says.

The lack of a solid, long-term federal highway bill has many states looking for alternative funding sources, and it’s creating inconsistencies among states in regards to roadbuilding dollars.

“A state’s federal highway funding is not reduced if the state passes a user-fee increase,” says Pam Whitted, senior vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association. In other words, states that take the initiative to raise their own tax dollars for roadbuilding will have more than states that don’t. But their citizens will be footing the increased state tax bill, in addition to paying the federal gas tax and any upcoming tax-based or user-fee increases at the federal level.

… and today comes word that California is asking for an additional $5.7 billion per year to maintain its roads.

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About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at dconstantino@northcoastmedia.net.

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