Budget Battle for Infrastructure

Dayne Walling is the former Flint Mayor and is a candidate for state representative in the 49th house district.  Dayne is a Flint native and Rhodes Scholar who owns 21Performance, a policy and management consulting company and teaches at Kettering University and Baker College.

The talk in Lansing about fixing the roads has been going on for years. There’s been a budget change here and there but the reality is that the roads are getting worse with each winter that passes.  The lip service and funding bumps are Capitol classics but they don’t get the job done. Drivers don’t want to pay more for the same bum deals and legislators keep pretending they are doing enough when their failures are all too obvious.

Building a 21st Century road system has to start with a vision instead of a budget battle. Begin with different questions. What do we need to do to have the best roads in the nation? Are there routes we need for today’s economy that we didn’t develop decades ago? How can complete streets be created where there is excess capacity because of changing conditions? What needs to be put in place for hybrid, electric and autonomous vehicles that we all know will be on the roads in significant numbers in the years to come? We need to have this conversation, especially as Democrats committed to making real change.

We know that bouncing around potholes and getting sprayed by patch gravel and debris is taking a toll on all of our vehicles and our sanity but this is bigger than finding dollars to fill potholes. Before jumping into debates about gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, and toll roads, we need to engage people on both sides of the aisle about the vision we have for Michigan’s roads and transportation system. This is where we can find common ground.

I believe it will become clear that the underlying funding formula also is part of the problem. Are you surprised that Public Act 51 of 1951 doesn’t work anymore? We have to be prepared to take bold action. Dump the old formula that no longer balances. We can craft a better framework for today and the future. Then we need to look at integrating investments in trails, bridges, pipes, rail lines and information technology conduits through a state infrastructure bank. Finally, we need to prioritize public infrastructure in economic development programs.

I believe we can truly build a stronger Michigan. Once we have the vision, framework, and tools in place then we can talk about setting the sufficient funding and the support will be there.

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