ELECTION 2014: Transportation funding a major issue in Michigan governor's race

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/9/2014

Michigan voters will decide next month who they want to fill the governor’s seat for at least the next four years. Transportation funding is a major issue being addressed on the campaign trail by sitting Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger Mark Schauer.

According to state figures, at least $1.2 billion more annually is needed to address road and bridge funding.

Schauer, a Democrat, is a former U.S. House Representative, Michigan state senator and state representative. He says Michigan drivers and businesses have the Republican governor to blame for failing to fix roads and bridges.

“Our crumbling roads cost Michigan motorists $2.5 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs, and make our state less attractive to prospective business development,” Schauer wrote on his campaign site.

Snyder released a transportation funding plan in 2013 that called for overhauling how the state collects taxes at the fuel pump.

The 10-year, $12 billion plan sought to get rid of the current fuel taxing system and start taxing gas and diesel at the wholesale level. The change would allow tax collections to increase with inflation.

However, the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to get behind the effort and nearly two years later they have not endorsed a plan.

Schauer says if he is elected governor he will bring both parties together to develop “a bipartisan solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.”

He also intends to audit state government to identify and cut any wasteful spending at the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Schauer has pointed out in questionnaires that during his time in the Michigan statehouse he supported a road funding package to increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 4 cents and to raise truck weight fees. He also advocates for making sure transportation funding isn’t diverted for other purposes. In addition, he supports tapping the state’s Rainy Day Fund to fix roads.

He also said he will pursue public-private partnerships to get work done and put more money into regional transit.

Snyder said he wants to see lawmakers get to work after the Nov. 4 election and hammer out a road funding deal.

The governor also wants to get moving on building a new bridge to connect Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Canada plans to cover Michigan’s share for construction of the New International Trade Crossing. However, the $2.1 billion project has been on hold as Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun continues to fight against the state’s plan. Instead, Moroun is pushing to build his own bridge next to the existing structure, which is two miles from the proposed NITC site.

The two gubernatorial candidates are scheduled to hold a “town hall” forum in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 12.

For more 2014 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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