Road Commissioners Lobby Snyder For Support

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

LANSING -- From potholes to snow removal, Governor Snyder is promised audience members at the annual County Road Association of Michigan breakfast -- that he's on the case.

"We're somewhere in the midst of pothole season," the governor said. "And I appreciate all the challenges you face and all the hard work we've gone through."

But the hundreds of local commissioners in attendance say they're in a wait-and-see pattern on the governor's transportation plan, due out in the fall.

And in the meantime, they're strapped for cash.

"Ingham [County] Road Commission, like most road commissions, has seen a 10-15 percent decline in our gas-tax and vehicle-registration revenue," said commissioner Bill Conklin. Besides federal money, those are the only forms of funding road commissions in Michigan receive.

The Ingham County Road Commission has already lost 30 employees over the past decade and still struggles to stay on budget.

In Clinton County?

"We aren't replacing people; we aren't resurfacing roads; we aren't replacing equipment," sais commissioner Joe Pulver. "So that all starts to take an effect after a while."

Across the board, counties are facing the double-burden of increasing costs for supplies like salt and asphalt (the prices for some have tripled in the past five years), and decreasing gas-tax revenue as folks cut down on travel with prices on the rise.

In total, the transportation system in Michigan is estimated to be about $2 billion in the hole.

"We've been, for years, looking at the issue of raising the gax tax," said John Niemela, head of the County Road Association of Michigan. "Probably the most common is in the range of raising the gas tax as high as 9 cents over a three-year period."

Commissioners have also proposed making the gas tax a percentage of the price of gas -- which would insulate road commission from the effect of skyrocketing prices.

But the governor declined Wednesday to say if he'll consider a gas tax increase, saying he'll place that in the bullpen for consideration in the fall.

For now, road commissioners are just glad that the worst of the winter is likely over.


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