Following his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder reiterated the need to find a way to raise $1.2 billion in funding per year in order to fix the state's crumbling roads to more than 400 people that attended the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday.
Snyder said roads are a topic he is "really fired up about."
He called for raising vehicle registration fees and changing the current 19 cents per gallon gas tax to a percentage tax based on the wholesale rate that would allow it to grow with inflation.
While legislators are looking at alternative ways to fund road improvements, Snyder said he preferred to do it fairly.
"There are other ways to do it, but my preference is to do it through user fees," he said. "To say the people using the roads, getting value out of the roads, should pay for it. I think the fairest answer is to stick to the basics - if you're going to use the road a lot, then you can pay a little bit more for the road."
Snyder said the costs would be on average an additional $120 per year, but would vary greatly depending on the value of the car and how many miles a person drives.
Without the additional $1.2 billion per year in funding, Snyder said roads will continue to crumble and in 10 years, would cost $25 billion to repair - more than two times as much currently.
"It's preventative maintenance such as changing the oil in your car," he said. "You pay now, pay periodically or have giant bill in the future. That bill doesn't go away, it only grows unless we make the investment."
Snyder also said that Michigan pays on average $81 more per year on vehicle repair costs than surrounding states like Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.
In addition, it would also generate about 12,000 jobs, according to Snyder.
State Rep. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, said that she wants to prioritize education and looks forward to working with Snyder on transportation after hearing him address those topics in his State of the State address.
“The governor’s recommendation to raise the level of funding for transportation has great merit,” Driskell said in a press release, citing the fact that the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) funding is so low it is causing a significant drop in service.
“I have worked locally for many years on our transportation system, and I am very concerned about the lack of revenue supporting our transportation infrastructure,” she said. "The ability for WCRC to maintain our roads affects school bus routes and public safety, not to mention the damage incurred to automobiles.”
Education and jobs are all about supply and demand
Snyder also touched briefly about education and jobs during a question and answer session after his speech.
He said the biggest topic he is focused on right now is the question of talent.
"We have a screwed up system in our country about matching the supply and demand for jobs," he said. "We have a lot of people looking for a job and we have a lot of open jobs. We have probably 50,000 to 80,000 open jobs in Michigan today. They're not being filled because of skill requirements or they're in certain locations. Why aren't we doing a much better job of matching supply and demand."
Snyder plans to address the issue by holding an Economic Development Summit in March, where he will bring in the private sector to talk about talent needs such as skilled trades to aggregate demand.
He will follow that meeting with a statewide education summit in April to talk about supplying those talent demands.
"I'm committed to reinventing Michigan, not fixing Michigan - fixing Michigan is not good enough," Snyder said.
Driskell said she would like to see a plan brought forward from the governor to stop the ongoing diversion of funds from K-12 education and public universities.
“In my conversations with constituents around western Washtenaw County, the No. 1 concern was the diversion of K-12 education funding away from schools,” she said.
“Instead of hearing about ways to address the constraints of our public schools, all we heard about from the governor was expansion of the Education Achievement Authority, which is an additional privatization effort statewide,” Driskell continued.
Driskell said she wants to build Michigan’s economy by improving its workforce through education.
“The success of our state is dependent on providing good educational opportunities and quality communities where people will choose to live and work,” she said.