Posted: May 14, 2014
By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, May 14, 2014
Michigan’s roads are in dire need of repair. But a House-passed package of bills in Lansing that would allocate upwards of $500 million a year to fix streets and bridges is a far cry from a permanent solution and will hurt Teamsters and the public alike.
Language that would double the fines for overweight trucks and significantly hike permit fees for trucks that carry overweight loads is a good start. However, Michiganians would be hit hard by other provisions that would simply steal the bulk of the money to be used for roads from unknown parts of the budget. Even provisions that could hike fuel taxes and lead to the creation of toll roads raise questions. It also falls short of addressing all the state’s transportation needs.
Take, for instance, the fuel tax. The measure changes how the fee is accessed from a per gallon charge to a percentage of fuel price. It remains uncertain, though, whether diesel fuel could see an additional hike, as has been discussed. Such an increase would hurt those who make their living on the roads at a time when the burden on the middle class is already too great.
It is also possible that one of the bills currently before the House could allow the creation of paid highways, dubbed “Lexus Lanes” by some, which would create a two-tier road system. That is simply unacceptable. Hard-working Michiganians who toil long hours to support their families and pay their taxes should not be pushed off onto substandard roadways just because they can’t afford the daily expense of tolls.
But the Teamsters’ biggest concerns center around three things – the size of the proposed transportation funding pot, where the money is coming from and ultimately, whether the bills will actually make it through the Legislature.
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