There is a special election coming up in Michigan on May 5, 2015. Only one, state-wide item is on the ballot, Proposal 1. It calls for raising the state sales, or use tax, from 6% to 7% with the promise of spending the money to repair roads and bridges. The campaign to support a Yes vote is big and strong, which is always a red flag for trouble. TV ads showing alleged victims of road accidents and folks whose cars were damaged by falling chunks of concrete from overpasses flood the airways. Nearly everyday, my mailbox has at least one postal piece begging me to vote Yes. But I say VOTE NO! Here is why…
The State of Michigan already raises plenty of cash to fix and maintain the roads. Between our own state and federal gasoline taxes, the money is there. Our roads and bridges are not in the sorry condition they are in because of a lack of funds. Weather plays a role as Michigan has hot summers and freezing winters. But the real culprit to why we have lousy roads is the weight limit. For decades, Michigan was the center of the automobile industry. So, many of our laws are geared to favor the car companies, their suppliers and labor unions.
Thanks to the auto and steel industries, plus the Teamsters Union, since 1967, the weight limit for Michigan roads has been 164,000 pounds! Trucks with up to 11 axles are legal to operate on our highways and bridges. Nationwide, the limit has been 5 axles and 80,000 pounds when the federal government set the standard back in 1982. An attempt last year to change the weight limit in Michigan, complying with the federal standards, failed in the State Senate. Some would argue that the weight limits means nothing as by spreading the weight out on additional axles actually reduces the wear and tear on our roads compared with the federal standards. However, if that were the case, then why are the roads in surrounding states, that comply more-so with the federal limits, in so much better condition than ours?
Take Indiana, for example. Their toll roads have a maximum weight limit of 90,000 pounds and those roads are vastly superior to ours. Plus, being toll roads, they do a far better job of checking vehicles, making certain that they are not over-loaded. So, here we have an example where lower weights, plus additional inspections of trucks and their freight, add up to better highways.
This is why I say to my fellow citizens of Michigan, VOTE NO on Ballot Proposal 1 in the upcoming special election on May 5, 2015. Raising the sales-uses tax from 6% to 7% on the promise of better roads is a lie! Throwing more money at a problem will not solve it. If you really want to have better roads, then we should lower the weight limits, or, go to privately operated toll roads. Obviously, the state government is failing in the task of maintaining our road system. Why reward them with more money and power?