University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

Learning from Prop 1: Healing Michigan’s Roads

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April 2017

Matthew Lawford

Abstract

Michigan’s roads are an expensive and continuously problematic policy area that lawmakers cannot seem to find solutions for. Michigan’s roads are now among the nation’s worst. More than a third of the state’s roads are included in a rating of poor conditioned roads; that number continues to grow as politicians prolong action to fix the state’s infrastructure. The poorly constructed and ill maintained roads are only supported by an equally as inoperative funding plan that costs the citizens of Michigan thousands of dollars annually. Currently, Michigan spends the least per capita on its roads and bridges than any of the other great lake states and dilapidated roads are costing Michigan citizens over seven billion dollars annually in vehicle operating costs. So why hasn’t anything been done to provide relief to the situation? Attempts to mend the infrastructure problem have been made, but have been either insufficient in solving the issue or have been shut down by the general population. The most notable of these attempts being proposition 1, which failed catastrophically in 2015. Prop 1 aimed to generate over a billion dollars in revenue for road funding through tax alteration and constitutional changes that would affect state sectors like education. On the one hand, the bill would have produced a pool of revenue strong enough to make significant improvements in Michigan’s infrastructure, on the other hand it was as too expensive and detrimental to the state as a whole and met strong opposition because of this. However, prop 1 was a step in the right direction towards fixing Michigan’s roads, the bill just had too many moving pieces that many people disagreed with. In order for Michigan to begin repairing its roads without harming its overall integrity, a policy middle ground needs to be found. Lawmakers need to recognize why proposition 1 failed and introduce a revised version that includes the effective parts of the original bill, while excluding the harmful pieces of its predecessor.

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