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Cost of Legislative Bickering: $3 million and 2,750 Employee Layoffs

Tuesday, September 16, 2008   (0 Comments)
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Legislative leaders rejected the 2009 transportation budget this morning, signaling the beginning of government shutdown procedures that will cost taxpayers an estimated $3.175 million.

The transportation budget was rejected on a 3-3 party line vote by the Transportation Appropriations Conference Committee. The government shutdown procedures will include decommissioning road construction zones and the layoff of as many as 2,750 state transportation department employees. The $3.175 million cost includes $635,000 in state money spent to implement shutdown procedures and another $2.54 million in lost federal match.

Without a state budget in place, state employees cannot be authorized to work. The state contract requires a 30-day notice before union employees can be laid off and those notices have been delayed in hopes of a last minute agreement. The current budget is set to expire September 30 at midnight.

“Apparently, partisanship and political bickering have replaced creating jobs as the top priority for some state politicians,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of public and government relations at the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA) and co-chair of the Michigan Transportation Team. “Our legislators are asleep at the wheel.”

A shutdown would mean temporary job cuts of critical state transportation officials during the waning days of Michigan’s short construction season. But it could also create unnecessary construction project delays, as the state would be forced to shut down ongoing road improvement projects.

This news is just one more blow to Michigan’s already crumbling transportation system. A report issued by the Granholm-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation Funding concluded in July that the state would need to double transportation funding—from $3 billion annually to $6 billion annually—to pay for even basic road and bridge repairs. Without this investment, an additional 30 percent of Michigan roads will decline to poor condition over the next decade. MDOT estimates that they will lose an average of $1 billion per year in federal funds starting in 2010 because of the state’s inability to provide state matching dollars. Even without the federal reductions, a University of Michigan study estimates the state is losing over 12,255 jobs between 2006-2009 because of expected cuts to gas tax revenues.

“While state policymakers say they want to fix our transportation system, they have failed to do anything but bicker,” Nystrom said. “And it is not just the MDOT shutdown. Just look at their track record – last year’s near-government shutdown, flirting with disaster by missing a federal deadline earlier this summer on approving federal airport projects, the refusal to act on the transportation funding crisis – the list goes on.”

The transportation budget delays are a result of political posturing over the location of the proposed new Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). The budget was first introduced more than six months ago.

“Our legislators inability to act is costing Michigan,” Nystrom said. “We cannot ignore our roads any longer – we need our legislators to step up and take action.”

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