Governor Gretchen Whitmer is currently attending the Mackinac Policy Conference, an annual meeting of business people, politicians, and activists where one of the topics of discussion is how exactly to address Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure.
Stateside caught up with the governor to talk about how the push to “fix the damn roads" is going.
A recent report from the Center for Michigan found that Michigan residents generally agree that the state’s roads are in bad shape. But many disagree with the government’s estimate that it will take $2.5 billion per year to repair them. Respondents also said the increased cost should be covered by cutting wasteful government spending, not by increasing the gas tax.
While Whitmer says she’s sympathetic to public frustration on this issue, she argues that road repair is a pressing problem with a price tag that will climb even higher if efforts to address it are delayed.
“The fact of the matter is, it’s a $2.5 billion problem today. We are at 78% of our roads in ‘good to fair’ condition. In just three years, that number is going to be closer to 50/50, and the price tag is going to be closer to $3.5 billion,” Whitmer said.
When it comes to the debate over her proposed gas tax increase, Whitmer says the Michigan Constitution requires that “every penny” collected from that tax actually go toward fixing state roads and bridges. That’s compared to other approaches that would require a future state Legislature to appropriate the necessary funds.
Whitmer also claims that the “finest quality” materials will be used when fixing the roads in order to avoid the need for frequent upkeep.
“We haven’t been rebuilding roads in Michigan in a long time — we’ve been patching them, we’ve been filling potholes, which means it’s a temporary fix. That’s why you see those orange barrels every other year,” Whitmer said. “When we rebuild the roads, we won’t have to repair them every couple years because they will be done right and they will last for decades.”
Both House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, Whitmer says, have acknowledged the need to generate revenue in order to fund infrastructure repair projects, but there's still not an agreement on how much revenue is needed, or where the money should come from.
The governor says she intends to continue with current negotiations, and still plans to sign a budget before the Legislature breaks for the summer.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.