Friday, December 5, 2014

Lame duck: funding roads by cutting schools

Two years ago a slew of radical education bills reared their heads in the lame duck legislative session--and it's happening again.

The election is over and there are many Michigan Representatives and Senators who won't be back on January 1st either because they are term limited or because they lost their election. Nonetheless, they still hold office until then and now is a time when they can push forward with unpopular measures without fear of reprisal from voters. There are several bad ideas making their way through the Legislature, one is to fund road repair by taking the money from public schools.

Fixing the roads has been a big focus in Lansing for more than a year. But, while all lawmakers say they are for improving roads, they disagree on how to pay for it. There are competing proposals in the Legislature right now. The measure which has passed the Senate would raise money by raising the gas tax:
The plan would convert the state's 19-cent per gallon gas tax to a wholesale version and gradually increase rates over four years. At the current wholesale price, gas taxes could top 40 cents by 2018. [, November 13, 2014.]
This plan is backed by Governor Snyder, and passed with Democratic as well as Republican votes in the Senate.  Okemos Parents for Schools takes no position on this measure as it has nothing to do with schools. The version passed by the House is another matter.

The version which recently passed in the House would not actually generate any additional revenue for the state, but would shift money which would otherwise go to schools and municipalities to roads:
The proposal put forth by Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, would phase out sales tax collections on fuel purchases between 2016 and 2021 but increase fuel taxes by a corresponding amount.
Fuel taxes are one of the state’s primary funding sources for roads. Most sales tax revenue, meanwhile, is constitutionally earmarked for the School Aid Fund and municipal revenue sharing programs.
"Simply put, this plan dedicates the taxes drivers pay at the pump to fixing their roads," Bolger, R-Marshall, said in a statement. 
There’s another complicating factor, however: Any new money generated for roads under the plan is not really new money. It’s funding that would have otherwise been directed toward schools and cities.
“If we take more money from our schools and our cities to solve the road funding problem, we haven’t really done anything,” said Rep. Doug Geiss, D-Taylor. “We’ve played a shell game.” [, December 5, 2014.]
This same idea was floated last year, and we told you about it then, Okemos Parents for Schools, May 3, 2013, and estimated it could result in cuts to schools in the neighborhood of $500 per student.  Michigan Parents for Schools is once again estimating the cost to schools could be in the neighborhood of $500 per student.  Michigan Parents for Schools, December 4, 2014.

Okemos Parents for Schools strongly opposes this measure.  While fixing roads is certainly a worthy pursuit, there is no need to do it by cutting funding to schools.  If you would like to contact your elected officials you can easily do so with a helpful tool generated by Michigan Parents for Schools:

Click here to contact lawmakers.  Fund roads by cutting schools is Bad Idea #1.

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