MITA Lobbies for Improved Transportation System
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Posted by: Nancy Brown
LANSING — The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association will make the case for adequate state funding of transportation before Senate and House Appropriations panels in Lansing this week.
“The road to economic recovery begins with a quality, reliable transportation infrastructure,” said Mike Nystrom, MITA vice-president of government and public relations. “We’re hopeful that the Legislature will make adequate comprehensive transportation funding a top priority and dedicate state resources accordingly.”
Nystrom conveyed MITA’s position on the administration’s recommended Fiscal Year 2005-2006 MDOT budget and covered a wide array of transportation issues. Highlights included:
• Federal funding — MITA is a co-chair of the Michigan Transportation Team, a coalition of more than 80 public and private organizations fighting to bring increased federal transportation funding back to Michigan. Congress is currently considering a long-term highway funding bill. Despite the prospect of increased funding, Michigan will still see a significant funding gap between what it pays in federal gasoline taxes and what it receives back from Washington.
•Interdepartmental Grants — Resources transferred from one Michigan department to another have been, and will remain, a concern of the transportation construction community. While it is understood that the state continues to face a serious budget crisis, burdening the transportation system by taking away critical funds has the domino effect of making it more difficult to attract good-paying jobs and new businesses to Michigan.
•Debt service — Since 2000, Michigan has financed much of its needed road and infrastructure funding through public bonds, increasing the state’s debt obligation. In fact, from 2000 to 2007, MDOT debt will have tripled. The dramatic increase emphasizes the fact that the pattern of inadequate transportation funding will need to be addressed at the state level in the near future.
MITA also announced its position on the practice of forward funding. As part of her Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow economic agenda, Governor Granholm has recently proposed a bond program that would dedicate approximately $400 million to road, bridge and other transportation projects.
“At this point, MITA is comfortable with a balanced use of financing and forward funding methods to support major transportation construction projects,” said Nystrom. “We should be conscious, however, that debt repayment eventually erodes significant portions of the transportation budget, specifically the road and bridge programs. Any expanded use of debt is symptomatic of the need for the Legislature to address the transportation funding issue comprehensively at the state level sooner rather than later.”
MITA also noted two positive aspects of the forward funding approach: Undertaking construction projects now instead of delaying them saves the state on the inflationary costs that will inevitably occur; and, the compounded economic benefit of a high-quality transportation infrastructure supports other sectors of the economy and helps attract good-paying jobs.