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El-Sayed calls for new taxes, fees and bonds to fund long-term infrastructure investment

Abdul El-Sayed
Bridge Magazine
Abdul El-Sayed

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed announced an ambitious infrastructure plan today, saying that addressing the problem of crumbling infrastructure in the state is a centerpiece of his campaign.

El-Sayed is proposing a multi-sector statewide infrastructure bank devoted to investing in four key areas: transportation (including roads, bridges and public transit), water, school buildings, and energy with a goal of bringing Michigan to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

"What you'll see here is a focus on addressing each of these in a progressive, thoughtful, long-term oriented approach," said El-Sayed.

"We need to make sure that we're evening out the cost so that those who are making the most money off of our public infrastructure are also paying the most in," El-Sayed said.

El-Sayed's plan would fund a transportation infrastructure bank with $1.5 billion in its first year, and about $1.4 billion in additional funding in each subsequent year until the state receives an "A" grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers which graded Michigan's roads and bridges with a "D+" in 2018.

El-Sayed's proposal would raise an additional $600 million above Governor Snyder's current road funding package from a combination of increased gas and diesel taxes, tolls and higher registration fees for farm and log trucks. The plan would also raise approximately $60 million annually from a 15 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana if voters legalize it in November.

To address the problem of aging water infrastructure, El-Sayed would raise $600 million in initial capital by issuing a bond that would need voter approval.

Identifying access to clean water as a fundamental human right, El-Sayed's plan calls for a new water pricing structure that would make water free for everyone for basic living needs.

"We're suggesting that every family in Michigan would get the basic amount of water that a family of four would need to drink, cook, clean and bathe free of charge," said El-Sayed. "And then we would start charging after that basic living standard had been exhausted per month, that charge would go up in a sliding scale so that each additional ounce consumed would cost more for a user."

"So if you are  somebody whose got 16 acres and wants to water all of it, and you've got a swimming pool and a jacuzzi and a sauna, that water's going to cost you," El-Sayed said.

According to El-Sayed,  inadequate school facilities are a major problem in Michigan and facilities funding is almost entirely paid for by local property taxes, creating a substantial disadvantage for school districts with low property values.

If he's elected governor, El-Sayed said he will ask voters to approve a statewide property tax of 4-5 mills that would pay off the current $13.7 billion in facilities debt of all Michigan school districts, leaving $8.6 billion for investment in school facilities. 

Under the plan, local governments would still be allowed to levy additional millages beyond the statewide 4-5 mill property tax.

"It's not just investing more," said El-Sayed. "It's investing more intelligently and investing with the future in mind."

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