The great road debate

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By Jalen J. Smith
Entirely East Lansing

Tomorrow, East Lansing residents are expected to vote in the city elections. Among the proposals on the ballot is a proposed road bill for the state of Michigan from Gov. Rick Snyder. The bill will include an increase in the state’s sales tax by one percent in addition to new fuel tax regulations and new divisions in the state’s school aid funds for public schools,community colleges and universities.

According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, highway program investment levels will drop at least $117 million dollars and will cause at least $655 million in federal revenues. The loss of federal revenue could cause the department to hold up plans in its five-year transportation program proposal.

“Our roads are in generally great condition in comparison to past years, but they could be better,” said George Lahanas, East Lansing city manager. “We have been working on the improvement of our city’s overall infrastructure for several year, but lack of funds derail some plans.”

A cracked city road in downtown East Lansing

A cracked city road in downtown East Lansing

According to the Michigan Municipal League, about 30 percent of the state’s roads are in need of repair and Michigan is now dead last in per-capita (per resident) funding for roads.

A league representative also reports, “that the bill would allow for every one dollar invested in maintaining our roads and bridges we would save at least six dollars in reconstruction costs.”

A May 5 bill would increase Michigan’s sales tax and funding for the roads. It would also include a removal of the sales tax on gasoline which predominantly goes to schools and local municipalities A portion of the additional tax revenue would then be dispersed to revenue sharing with townships, cities and villages.

“As part of this bill, fuel taxes would cease on a per -gallon basis and instead be based on the wholesale price of the fuel,” said Kirk T. Steudle, director of the transportation program.

The change on the fuel tax in the state will be the first major change since the last increase in 1997 this while Michigan’s purchasing power is down six cents since that increase. The proposal would also include removing the higher education funding from the School Aid Fund and making that money exclusively available for school districts and community colleges.

“I am not a fan of the bill possibly taking money from students said,” Hannah Weber, an East Lansing area local. “In an academic community like this city we should be trying to protect any money that could potentially go back into the MSU campus and better for this community overall,” Weber said. The size of the school fund at the end of fiscal year 2014 was $12.5 billion and was dispersed across the state’s universities, school districts and community colleges including Michigan State University and East Lansing Public Schools.

“Right now I am torn about the proposed bill there are a lot of pros and some cons to think about before I cast my vote,” said Matt Raven, professor, Michigan State University, department of community sustainability and East Lansing area resident.
The proposed bill will be voted on during the May 5 election. As well as many other key issues like a proposed marijuana decriminalization bill for the city.
“There is a lot of important things on the ballot that are happening at the state level that affects us locally, I strongly encourage everyone to go out and vote,” said Marie Wicks, city clerk.

Construction sign from a road project underway at Harrison Road and Albert Avenue

Construction sign from a road project underway at Harrison Road and Albert Avenue

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