Following the state senate’s approval of an increased fuel tax to pay for road and bridge repair in Michigan, state Representative Scott Dianda is calling for changes in the Michigan Department of Transportation. In a statement released this week, Dianda said he would not vote for a tax increase until MDOT uses its money more wisely. The Calumet Democrat cited the Department’s fleet of airplanes, and said it was wrong for MDOT officials to be flying to meetings while Upper Peninsula highways go unplowed. He also suggested that a more efficient system could be created for bidding construction contracts.
The proposal approved last week by the senate would replace the 19-cent-per-gallon fuel tax with a 9.5 percent tax on the wholesale cost. That tax would increase to 15.5 percent in 2018, making it the highest in the nation. The measure still needs approval from the state house and Governor Rick Snyder.
Here is the full text of Dianda’s release:
In an open letter, state Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) called on the governor to make the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) a more cost-efficient organization. The lawmaker warned that he would not vote for a gas tax increase on his constituents unless he felt that MDOT was making the wisest use of its current budget.
“In the U.P., we are seeing that MDOT maintains a fleet of state planes for its employees to use, but the department won’t keep our main streets clear of snow and ice during a storm,” Rep. Dianda said. “There is something very wrong with that picture.”
The legislator is concerned that even with the proposed gas tax increases, municipal governments in his district still would not get the service they need to function properly unless the state cuts back. In his letter, Rep. Dianda outlined several steps the governor could take to curb costs at MDOT, including a smarter system for awarding state contracts and making sure that MDOT employees use videoconferencing technology whenever possible to avoid travel expenses.
“We have a sacred trust to guard the resources of the people and to spend their money as we would our own. My constituents are very concerned about how a gas tax increase is going to impact their daily lives and ability to commute to work,” Rep. Dianda said. “They see their heating costs going up during this early winter, and they are worried about the energy rate increases that are coming. They didn’t ask for any of this.
“We need to fix Michigan’s roads and maintain them during the winter. Our counties and townships have been asked to do more with less. I understand that,” Rep. Dianda said. “But I will not vote to make it more costly for folks to get to work unless I know I have done everything I can, and the governor is doing everything he can, to make the Michigan Department of Transportation a leaner, meaner organization.”