Today the House Transportation Committee, under the leadership of Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), held the second of three weeks of hearings to determine whether Michigan needs a gas tax increase to fix the state’s deteriorating road, bridge and transit systems. The testimony heard today resonated a consistent message that transportation funding must be increased to attract new business, spur economic activity and to preserve and increase jobs.
The committee heard from a wide-variety of organizations today including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Public Transit Association and organized labor.
“Legislators heard today from organizations that all recognize the critical role transportation funding plays in our state’s economic vitality,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations, Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association and co-chair of the Michigan Transportation Team. “The fact that labor and business is on the same side of this issue should speak to the value that increasing our investment in transportation will bring to Michigan.
In addition to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, local chambers were also present to share their perspective on transportation funding and its impact to their region.
“As our region struggles to regain our economic strength, we are constrained by a transportation system that barely has enough resources to maintain its existing infrastructure,” said Melissa Roy Trustman, director, government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “In order to continue to compete globally, our state and our region need to make a greater commitment to not only maintenance of the system, but also improvement of our infrastructure.”
Representatives from organized labor shared their perspective on the important work they do to maintain the system, while funding is not keeping pace with the deteriorating infrastructure.
“Our guys take pride in their work and want to do the job right,” said Dennis Gillow, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324. “ There is a reason, outside of our cold winters, that our roads deteriorate so quickly. We need to invest more resources into one of our state’s most basic and necessary provisions – a safe and efficient transportation system.”
Former State Representative (D-Owosso, 1991-1998) and current Executive Director of the Michigan Public Transit Association, Clark Harder, shared a personal plea to the legislature to take action on this issue.
“I’m unique, because I sat where you are now 10 years ago and sponsored a gas tax increase,” said Harder. “ We knew our investment in our transportation was vital. I know you have tough decisions - tougher than I had to make – this won’t be a tough decision. It will be the right decision.”
The final hearing will be held April 12, culminating a year-long statewide effort by the Michigan Transportation Team, which has included statewide road and bridge condition reports, public opinion surveys and focus groups, a Web site, postcards to legislators and most recently a radio and billboard advertising campaign. The overall message of the transportation funding campaign, known as DriveMI, has been “Don’t Forget Our Roads.” The point of the campaign is to remind legislators that there is more work to be done besides the budget and Single Business Tax replacement during this legislative session.
MTT is a broad-based, bi-partisan partnership of business, labor, local government, associations and citizens linked with the common goal of improving Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. The DriveMI campaign is committed to promoting the development and maintenance of a safe, convenient and efficient transportation network that serves the public, private and economic development needs of Michigan.