Whitmer borrows $3.5B without approval from voters, lawmakers

Whitmer borrows $3.5B without approval from voters, lawmakers

The new bonds were authorized less than 24 hours after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's State of the State speech. But Michiganders will be paying them off for 25 years.

Michigan lawmakers last year rejected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to make the state’s gas tax burden the highest in the nation.

So the governor is pursuing a new strategy – ignoring lawmaker and voter approval altogether in order to spend money on her preferred initiatives.

In her State of the State address Jan. 29, Whitmer announced she would borrow $3.5 billion to fund spending on roads and bridges. The new debt – which taxpayers will be paying down for the next 25 years – was approved by an unelected state commission less than 24 hours after Whitmer’s speech.

“I’m not going to wait anymore. I am going to move forward unilaterally and get to work moving some dirt,” Whitmer told The Associated Press ahead of her address. “Dollars that are bonded will be going toward rebuilding long-term assets. So it’s not for short fixes. This is for reconstruction.”

Each taxpayer in Michigan already shoulders $17,000 in state debt that they’ll ultimately need to pay off through higher taxes, according to fiscal watchdog Truth in Accounting. That’s the second-highest burden in the Midwest, behind only Illinois. Ohioans enjoy less than half the debt burden of Michiganders.

On top of lacking public debate and scrutiny, Whitmer’s end-around in issuing these bonds means Michiganders will see less bang for their tax buck.

Borrowing plan won’t touch more than 90% of Michigan roads

The Michigan Transportation Commission can only approve funds used on freeways and state trunk-line roads. Local roads, which make up 92% of Michigan’s roadways, will be left untouched.

The plan leaves local roads “in the dust,” according to officials from the County Roads Association. “While we all have had bumpy drives on the freeway, and those certainly need repair, every Michigan resident’s daily travels begin and end in their driveway,” said Deputy Director Ed Noyola.

Michigan still owes $1 billion on road bonds issued 10 years ago, and the state is not scheduled to pay down that debt until 2037. Whitmer’s bonds only add to that burden for future generations of Michiganders.

“This is not a long-term solution for our roads, simply taking out a loan and passing it on to our children. I can’t take that seriously as a long-term proposal,” said House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

Thanks to pro-growth policy reforms, young Michiganders can look forward to bright economic futures.

Hasty, unilateral decisions on billions of dollars in debt threaten to stop that progress in its tracks.

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