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The Roads and Michigan’s Health

Page 6

By Sandy K. Baruah

When it comes to your health, there are things you sometimes have to do in the interest of your well-being. Whether it is taking a pill or an exhausting treatment regimen, you do them because they positively impact your quality of life – not because you necessarily want to.

When it comes to Michigan’s economic health, there is something that Michiganders need to do for their collective well-being:

Vote “yes” on Proposal 1 on May 5. While no one is excited about increasing the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, it is critical to Michigan’s future as a place to live, work and play.

A “yes” vote will ensure Michigan’s roads are safe for motorists. It will prevent crumbling roads from undermining Michigan’s reinvention and protect motorists whose safety is in question daily. It is a critical step to ensuring Michigan has the transportation infrastructure to continue to grow its economy.

Safe and effective roads are not luxury items. Our employees, customers and goods rely on functional roads to navigate the marketplace. Michigan cannot cut corners on critical infrastructure and expect to compete globally. Roads are a base requirement for a sound business environment, and unfortunately, they cost money. Yet, the Legislature – both parties – has failed to lead on this issue.

For years, it has been well known that Michigan’s roads are crumbling. Thirty-eight percent of Michigan’s state and locally owned urban roads and 32 percent of Michigan’s state and locally owned rural roads are in poor condition, according to the national transportation research group TRIP. Despite these facts, Michigan has not acted to solve this growing crisis. Michigan invests less per capita in transportation than any state in all of America. Ohio, a state with a similar climate and road system to Michigan, invests more than $1 billion more in its roads each year than Michigan does.

A big reason Michigan has lagged behind competitor states is due to the current tax system that requires that taxes on gasoline be diverted someplace else in the state budget. Proposal 1 not only modernizes our road funding system, it guarantees in the constitution that every penny paid at the pumps in fuel taxes must go to transportation. That will go a long way to address the lack of investment our state has made.

Additionally, waiting longer to fix Michigan’s roads will only cost more. For every $1 invested in maintaining our roads and bridges, there is a savings of at least $6 in reconstruction costs. While there is no number that can tie investment to lives saved, there can be agreement that one life lost due to poor road conditions is one too many.

Proposal 1 is far from perfect – the Chamber Board of Directors was less than enamored with it – but it is the only option. There is nothing else on the table, and Michigan does not have time to wait for another long drawn-out battle on this issue. The political gridlock over road funding is now threatening to paralyze Michigan’s economy with the uncertainty of an election.

On May 5, voters will be asked to do something that is not going to be popular in some circles. But voting “yes” is the right decision – for the safety of our motorists and the future of Michigan’s economy.

Sandy K. Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.