Can Michigan Fund Our ‘Damn Roads’ Without More Tax Hikes?
Much of our political talk these days has to do with the proposed 45 cents per gallon tax hike by Governor Whitmer.
So the question is do we really need to raise our gas taxes again, we just did in 2017, or is there another way to fund the fixes to our infrastructure problems without the increase in fuel tax?
Well the Mackinac Center for Public Policy believes we can. They stated in an article that they believe that we can fund the fixes to our roads using projected growth in our state taxes collected by our treasury and shifting funds from other programs in our budget.
Will politicians be able to resist their temptation to use projected growth in our tax revenues on new spending and instead use those funds to fix our “damn roads”? That really is the question if these projected tax growth comes to fruition.
The Mackinac Center states that the largest piece of funds that came be redirected to infrastructure repairs comes from the $1.2 billion increase in state tax revenue that Michigan budget officials estimate will be collected next year. That is an additional $1.2 billion due to the great economy in Michigan not due to tax increases.
The Mackinac Center has identified the following as other areas in which funds can be redirected to fund our infrastructure needs:
Defund corporate welfare in Michigan. Every year, the state spends hundreds of millions on a wide array of programs that transfer taxpayer dollars to a relatively small number of corporations and developers. Just one example is $75 million appropriated each year to the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a program that gives the money to or spends it on a variety of special interests. Total savings: $244.1 million.
Redirect money from the Transportation Economic Development Fund to repairs of highways known as trunk line roads. This fund is another program that selectively benefits a handful of private interests. One example was $500,000 spent in 2017 on redeveloping a 535-acre industrial complex in Willow Run so it could be turned into a self-driving vehicle research hub. That money – and more – could have been spent on fixing the state’s highways. Total savings: $43.3 million.
Eliminate state arts grants. Among the recent grants was one for a garden poetry reading at a specialty farm in Ann Arbor. Total savings: $9.0 million.
Eliminate taxpayer support for the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. U-M would be a going concern without state taxpayer dollars. It also had a $10.8 billion dollar endowment as of 2017, the eighth-largest in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Total savings:$320.8 million.
Reduce funding for a government preschool program called the Great Start Readiness Program. Initially meant for children of low-income families, Great Start has been expanded to subsidize preschool for households with higher incomes. Spending on it has more than doubled since 2011, after adjusting for inflation. Reverting the line item to the 2011 level and redirecting the program to its original purpose would save $131.7 million. Total savings: $131.7 million.
End so-called enhancement grant spending, which is often added during midnight budget negotiations. An example is that in the last two budgets, $2 million was granted to the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. The money was appropriated without public discussion, using a process that identifies the beneficiary only indirectly. Total savings: $115.5 million.
End extra school district retirement payments. School districts are responsible for paying the cost of state pensions earned by their employees. To relieve districts of some of that burden, the Snyder administration shifted part of its cost to the state. Some of this responsibility and expense can be passed back to school districts. Total savings: $100 million.
Eliminate state funding for AgBioResearch, a program at Michigan State University. The appropriation for it finances research that often benefits the agribusiness industry, which should pay its own way, and some of the spending is of questionable value. For example, MSU announced that its researchers had discovered the “evolutionary origins of the cultivated strawberry.” Total savings: $34.6 million.
Well these suggestions for funding our roads with current taxes are now on the table, how will Michigan legislators respond.