After failing to get her 45-cent fuel tax increase enacted, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is addressing her “fixing the damn roads” platform via bonds already approved by the State Transportation Commission.
The $3.5 billion bonds will be used for the state’s most highly trafficked roads — but not local roads used by Michigan farmers. An additional $205.3 million is now being proposed by Whitmer over the next five years to also repair state and local highways, roads, and bridges, with $132 million coming from the 2015 road package and $48.8 million in federal funding.
“The Governor's been consistent in making roads a central platform,” said Matt Smego, associate director of the public policy and commodity division at the Michigan Farm Bureau. “She wasn’t able to get the 45-cent (gas tax) proposal through last year, and it’s clear she’s abandoning that process. Looking at a new alternative, she proposed at her State of the State going about it a different way — by bonding roads.
“The challenge is the vast majority (of this funding) is going into urban centers.”
Despite more than 120 roads affected by these funds, Smego said “very little is going into the rural communities.”
“Our farmers are reliant on the entire road system — interstate highways, state trunklines, local roads,” he said. “So, we need to make sure we are funding the whole system and not only pieces of the system.”
According to Smego, Michigan residents can expect orange barrels covering major highways this summer.
“The bonds are a paid-back period usually around the 25-year timeframe,” Smego added. “A lot of times when you look at bonding, it’s an investment decision. … There are times where investments in bonding make sense, (but) it doesn’t fix the structural problem of how we finance our road network. We see this as a stop-gap in helping to bring up to speed some of those roads.”
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development would see $110.3 million ($53.5 million General Fund) under the executive budget proposal for 2021 and 2022, including one-time funding of $10 million to the General Fund for 2021.
“We’re looking forward to conversations with our legislative partners to ensure they understand where our members’ priorities fall within the budget as a whole, including agriculture appropriations and support for funds to continue the work of the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture that did not receive recommendation for funding by the Governor,” Smego said.
Other agriculture items include:
View the entire budget here