Senate committee nixes new bridge to Canada. Will Gov. Rick Snyder's road plan face same fate?

| Thursday, October 27, 2011
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Gov. Rick Snyder was dealt the first major defeat in his young administration last week when a Senate committee, controlled by his Republican Party, refused to let the full Senate vote on his plan to build a new bridge linking Detroit and Windsor.

Snyder has invoked a "cooling-off period" and promises to revisit the plan, possibly within weeks. In the meantime, the governor has unveiled a plan to fix Michigan's sorry roads and bridges by raising up to $1 billion in higher vehicle registration fees and changing the way gasoline is taxed.

Snyder said he's open to negotiation to the size of the fee hike, but some of his fellow Republicans already are trashing the plan.

State Sen. John Pappageorge likely reflected the opinions of many in the Republican caucus when he told the Detroit Free Press that "there are three things my constituents don't like: the gas tax, toll roads and potholes, and that's the nub of the problem."

The other problem is that Republicans, who control the Legislature, have become the party of "no." Their answer to virtually every issue that involves money is that no additional dollars are necessary. Existing funds just need to be used more efficiently.

Much has been made of millions of dollars Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun spent on lobbying and television advertising to defeat the New International Trade Crossing plan.

But I wonder if the bridge plan would have won approval in the Legislature absent Moroun's spending. Despite backing from virtually every major corporation and business group in the state, there was a lot of opposition in Lansing to Snyder's plan.

Some lawmakers questioned the need for it. Others were skeptical of Snyder's claim that the federal government would allow Michigan to use Canada's $550 million bridge payment as a match for additional federal road funds. Still others didn't believe the governor's contention that Michigan taxpayers would never have to pay a penny for bridge construction.

And in an environment where austerity seems to be the supreme virtue, it's easy to say "no."

Which leads me to ask: Could we have built the majestic Mackinac Bridge in today's political mood?

Michigan Chamber of Commerce President Rich Studley issued a statement Wednesday supporting Snyder's road plan: "Now is the time to make bold and dramatic changes on how we deliver and pay for transportation in Michigan. Doing nothing is not an option,” he said.

We'll soon see if lawmakers agree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let Matty Moroun pay for the bridge. It would be like any other private enterprise. Michigan needs a better public transportation infrastructue.

RE: increased license fees to fix roads. Come on, we all know the roads will only get a temporary and probably typical half-baked fix. Use the recently found money for the roads and drop the crazy sales tax on gasoline.

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