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Road Funding Plan Leaves Buses at the CurbPrint

Thriving Communities | May 20, 2014 | By James Bruckbauer

Groups are urging lawmakers to ensure new transportation dollars flow through Act 51 so buses don't get left at the curb. (Photo: Bobby Alcott Photography)

Transportation advocates all over the state say the most recent proposal to raise much-needed money for transportation would bypass the state’s normal funding formula and divert money to roads only, leaving out transit.

Groups all over state, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Municipal League, and the Transportation for Michigan coalition recently called on state leaders in the House last week to make sure any new dollars go through the current transportation formula, Act 51, so all agencies get their share of the money, and so bus riders don’t get left at the curb.

The proposal is expected to raise an estimated minimum of $450 million in 2015 for Michigan’s crumbling roads by:

  • Repealing the 19-cent-per-gallon tax on unleaded gasoline and replace it with a six percent wholesale tax;
  • Repealing a 15-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel and replacing it with a six percent wholesale tax;
  • Increasing permit fees and fines for overweight trucks;
  • Permanently dedicating one percent of the existing six percent Use Tax revenue to roads;
  • Permanently dedicating a portion of the existing six percent Sales Tax on gas and diesel to roads;
  • And, applying smaller changes to registration payments and permit fees.

Instead of going through the normal distribution formula, Act 51, the money would bypass Act 51 and go directly to road agencies.

Two amendments were brought forward by House lawmakers. One would have ensured that a portion of the new funding would be shifted to transit, another would have restricted the new dollars to fixing existing roads, rather than for new roads. Both amendments failed.

The House passed the series of bills last week, so now it’s up to the Senate to make any changes to the funding proposal.

Transit funding was left out of the package despite clear indication that there’s a fundamental shift taking place in how people want to get around.

In fact, transit ridership is at its highest level since 1956, while per-person driving in Michigan has dropped almost 7% since 2005About one-third of Michiganders are too young, too old, or are just physically or financially unable to drive. Transit has become a crucial part of the economic development strategies in Michigan’s talent-driven areas. And, every year Michigan voters overwhelmingly show their support for transit investments.

The Senate is expected to vote on the package as early as this week. So if you think the new transportation funding should include transit, right now would be a good time to let your state senator know how you feel.

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.