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Whitmer says legislature is to blame for lack of progress on 'damn roads'

Governor Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 9:40 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 07:11:31-04

MICHIGAN. —

It's a promise most all Michiganders remember, "fix the damn roads."

But three years into Gretchen Whitmer's term as Michigan governor, how are the roads really?

According to Michigan.gov's pavement tracker, overall road conditions were better in 2018-2019, than they were in 2019 - 2020, the most recent year for which data is available.

According to Michigan.gov's pavement tracker, overall road conditions were better in 2018-2019, than they were in 2019 - 2020, the most recent year for which data is available.

Ask how she felt about that, Whitmer said, "Well, I think that, as I explained, you know, we're doing a lot of work on the state trunklines and bridges."

"Because the legislature wouldn't move forward on what I had proposed, the gas tax, I know no one wants to raise taxes, but we've got a problem with infrastructure and I said I was going to solve it and that really would have been a good solution," she said. "All that being said, the legislature wouldn't do it, and so we are seeing our local roads continue to deteriorate."

Kyle Melinn is the editor of Michigan Information and Research Service, which covers Michigan state government exclusively.

Kyle Melinn is the editor of Michigan Information and Research Service, which covers Michigan state government exclusively.

On the topic of the legislature working with Whitmer he said; "I'm reminded of the old Dr. Seuss story about the two Zax, the westward, or the northward facing Zax and the southward facing Zax, in that you had two people who got to a certain point where they were both not going to budge off their position, and so now the rest of the world has had to kind of work around them in order to improve roads and bridges."

" You had two people who got to a certain point where they were both not going to budge off their position."

In 2019, Whitmer proposed a 45 cent gas tax increase to fix Michigan roads, he said, and Republicans replied with the offer to hike the tax by 15 cents. They never reached a compromise.

"It really damaged relations between the two. Since then, really, they haven't been able to agree on anything," said Melinn.

Throughout the spring, Whitmer has been making visits to road projects as part of her $3.5 billion "Rebuilding Michigan Plan."

The bonding plan is Whitmer's attempt to fix Michigan roads without having to work with the Republican-controlled legislature.

The bonding plan is Whitmer's attempt to fix Michigan roads without having to work with the Republican-controlled legislature.

"We moved forward with the bonding plan, we did this unilaterally," said Whitmer, "and we are putting $3.5 billion into roads across the state. Now it only addresses the state roads. I can't fix them, myself, the local ones. I need the legislature to work with me."

The bonding plan has 21 projects in the works.

Which brings us back to square one: the two Zax.

The governor maintains that the reason Michigan roads as a whole have not improved is that the legislature wouldn't work with her in 2019, and they won't work with her today.

The governor maintains that the reason Michigan roads as a whole have not improved is that the legislature wouldn't work with her in 2019, and they won't work with her today.

"I said that first year that I took office, I put a plan on the table that would have solved all of these problems. The legislature wouldn't...they wouldn't embrace the plan," she said. "But they also didn't even offer an alternative. They just walked away."

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey responded with a statement calling Whitmer's account "blatantly false.

Statement by Mike Shirkey

"The Legislature put before the governor multiple alternative plans to fix our roads from driveway to highway, and she chose to walk away. Her disastrous plan to nearly triple gas taxes would not have addressed local roads, but it would have made filling up your tank at the pump cost more. Even in recent weeks, the governor continues to abandon working with the Legislature on pressing issues facing Michigan, namely COVID response and the state budget," Shirkey said.

With 18 months left in Whitmer's term as governor, will the two Zax find a way to get Michigan road repairs moving?

With 18 months left in Whitmer's term as governor, will the two Zax find a way to get Michigan road repairs moving?

"There will not be a consensus within the time between now and the election for there to be a package in which taxes are raised to fund for roads," said Melinn. "I think that train has left the station and it's gone and done. The question now has to do with bonding."

The bonding plan could fill a much larger pot-hole in Michigan's road problems if President Biden's American Jobs Plan passes.

The plan would give $600 billion to U.S. infrastructure.

The plan would give $600 billion to U.S. infrastructure.

"The Biden administration is moving forward with their American Jobs Plan," Whitmer said. "There's a lot of resources for infrastructure, this may help us address some of those issues that I just described, and so I'm feeling optimistic."