Lansing road funding debate out of sync

There is a two-pronged debate raging in Lansing relative to increasing funds for the state’s rapidly deteriorating road system.

While just about everyone agrees ways must be found to increase the amount of money spent each year on road repair, replacement and new construction, disagreements arise on how the money will be raised and handed out.

Gov. Rick Snyder has talked up an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, increasing the per-gallon levy from 19 cents to 33 cents per gallon. In addition, Snyder wants to hike the amount paid for vehicle license plates by 60 percent.

All told, the increases would raise about $1.2 billion in new money, most of which would go into a new Commercial Corridor Fund, which, in turn, would make additional money available to local road agencies.

Snyder’s fellow Republicans, however, aren’t so sure. Some GOP lawmakers want to trim spending in some areas and tap unused funds from other sources to find new money, The Associated Press reported.

No matter where the new money comes from, assuming it is raised, it will be the first substantial increase in funding for roads in the state in some 15 years.

Divvying up the money is an entirely separate challenge. To at least some degree, this debate will pit rural against urban area reps, who often complain that the law used to divide up the transportation money is antiquated, dating to 1951.

The law, urban reps argue, unfairly favors the building and maintenance of roads in the country instead of urban roads used by many more people.

AP reported that Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Cranson said no one is talking much about funding formulas because “it’s all predicated on first arriving at some new funding,” but the governor understands local officials are “very eager” to learn more.

Here’s our advice: Before starting a debate, well meaning or not, on who gets how much, first determine how many new dollars will flow into the system and where they will come from.

Certainly there must be a dialogue on spending and we look forward to reporting on it to our readers. But first things first; determine how much money we’re talking about. Then take the next step.