Whitmer expected to unveil road bonding plan in SOS speech

By: - January 29, 2020 4:55 pm

Potholes tearing through a Meridian Twp. road | Susan J. Demas

It’s been almost a year since Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the GOP-led Legislature to OK a 45-cent gas tax hike to inject $2.5 billion into Michigan’s decrepit roads and bridges.

That failed to gain traction, so now it looks like it’s on to Plan B — and the “B” stands for bonding. Whitmer is expected to announce her financing plan — which wouldn’t involve the Legislature — during her second State of the State address Wednesday night.

The Advance has learned that Whitmer will not ask voters to approve funding for roads and bridges. Former Gov. Rick Snyder last tried running a sales tax hike by voters in 2015 and it failed 80% to 20%.

It’s somewhat unusual for governors to detail policy proposals during what’s often a broad address. That’s often reserved for when they reveal their budget plans for the next year or give special messages, as Snyder was prone to give.

Whitmer likely ditching 45-cent gas tax, as ‘worst pothole season in recent memory’ looms

But infrastructure has been Whitmer’s signature issue, defining her 2018 campaign, so she appears ready to use her biggest speech of the year to talk about how she plans to make good on her promise to “fix the damn roads.” 

In a roundtable with reporters in December, Whitmer warned that Michigan was facing the “worst pothole season in recent memory” — a line wouldn’t be surprising to hear in her speech Wednesday.

The State Transportation Commission, which is scheduled to meet Thursday morning, would have to authorize bonds to finance infrastructure projects. It could OK more than $3 billion, Crain’s Detroit reports. Bond sales likely would be staggered over several years.

Although details of Whitmer’s new roads plan have yet to be released, state Reps. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) and Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) already tangled over the issue on Twitter.


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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.