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Bulletins, News, and Press: MITA In the News

Roads sacrificed to maintain status quo

Wednesday, July 11, 2007   (0 Comments)
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The Detroit News

Michigan will soon see a very visible sign of the state's dismal economic condition -- its roads will be rutted and crumbling.

The state can't sustain spending on road construction projects with tax revenues declining. And federal funds are drying up.

Construction employment in the state is down 25,000 workers from May 2003. And that's before the state loses $390 million in federal funds between now and 2011 for roads projects, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

That doesn't bode well for roads, which are rated fifth worst in the nation, according to a report card from Overdrive, a trade magazine for truckers. But it's even worse for the economy and the state's workers, who are following the jobs to places like Florida and Wyoming.

"Our Michigan business plan is nothing more than survival," Slagter Construction President Brian Slagter told The News.

He's slashed his Grand Rapids-based company's road building work force to 66 from 102 in the past five years and he's sending employees to Florida to keep the business afloat. Twenty-four Slagter employees now make their home in the Sunshine State, up from six in 2006.

Unfortunately such stories no longer are the exception. Michigan might have had a chance at getting a fuel tax passed to bolster its road construction fund, but there's not likely to be a climate for higher gasoline taxes if the state adopts income and service tax hikes.

So the trend of deteriorating roadways will continue, making Michigan even less competitive in attracting new businesses and residents. And using public works projects as a way to boost state employment is only a temporary solution. It didn't work for the New Deal and it hasn't worked in Michigan either, which retains one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

This again comes down to choices in Lansing. The politicians seem determined to raise taxes to keep from reforming and restructuring government.

And as a result of that decision, Michigan motorists can look forward to more bone-jarring commutes.

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