Lonnie Scott: Legislative Republicans offer no roads plan, only complaints

Lansing potholes | Susan J. Demas

This week is infrastructure week, and Michigan is, once again, the poster child for crumbling infrastructure.

Voters went to the polls last year and overwhelmingly elected the candidate who recognized the problem, ran on the slogan of “Fix the damn roads” and then put her foot to the pedal to put her words to action.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put forward a plan to fix Michigan’s roads. Her plan would move Michigan beyond the unending cycle of patching potholes and falling further behind in terms of increased costs, year in and year out. Her plan is detailed, forward-looking and deals with the harsh realities of fixing a problem that has been ignored, at worst, and kicked down the road, at best, for decades.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer | Casey Hull

The Whitmer plan offers a road to opportunity. It would increase safety to avoid tragedy, calls for use of the right materials to ensure quality, protects road funding by constitutionally guaranteeing gas tax funds go to roads, and saves us money by cutting down on the need for costly repairs of failing infrastructure later.

Once Whitmer’s plan was released, Republicans in the Legislature responded with indifference to the poor state of our roads and offered no substantive response.

Instead, they offered the same old lame talking points and advocated doing nothing. These tired excuses have stagnated action in Lansing during almost a decade of total Republican control and pushed the price tag of a solution even higher.

Chatfield and Shirkey
Lee Chatfield (left) and Mike Shirkey (right)

Of course, the same Republicans who complain about the roads and then complain about the details of fixing them have zero plans of their own.

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) are just the latest in a long line of tired and unimaginative so-called leaders of Republican majorities in Lansing.

In fact, during the eight years of Republican Rick Snyder’s governorship, the only plan to fix roads was a failed half-measure passed in 2015 that did nothing to address the long-term infrastructure problems our state faces.

Now, Chatfield and Shirkey are sitting back and doing what conservatives do best when faced with the realities of their failed policies: complain and blame others. The fact is Shirkey has no plan to fix the roads and Chatfield wouldn’t know a comprehensive roads plan if it was literally paved in front of him.

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Basic high school civics tells us that the Legislature is a co-equal branch of government. But with the leadership of Shirkey and Chatfield, the Legislature has been reduced to nothing more than a comment box with no plans of their own.

It’s time the Republicans show us their plan to fix roads. Or, at the very least, it’s time they sat down for a constructive conversation about the Whitmer plan and avoid partisan talking points that do nothing to solve problems.

When George Steinbrenner ran the New York Yankees, he kept a sign on his desk that read, “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.” Shirkey and Chatfield should take that sign to heart.

Lonnie Scott
Lonnie Scott is executive director of Progress Michigan. He served as state director for Enroll America, a national non-profit working to educate people about the new healthcare options made available by the Affordable Care Act and was a chief staffer for State Reps. Alma Wheeler Smith and Jeff Irwin.


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