Tall task head for Snyder in 2017
The tiny berg of Fraser, Mich., today, and who the heck knows which town or city tomorrow?
In case you missed it Fraser, population 10,000 plus, made the national news the other day when a giant sinkhole devoured portions of 22 homes including three homes on Christmas Eve that made it impossible for Santa to come down the chimney for the kids who lived inside.
Try explaining that to a three-year-old.
Turns out, according to the Department of Environmental Quality, it was the failure of the infrastructure sewer system that reeked havoc on the community and this was not the first time. Several years ago, along the same stretch of highway, another sink hole did the same thing.
The Snyder administration was not overjoyed to learn of this mess but ironically the story fits in with a new agenda item, i.e. raise $4 billion a year to begin the methodical and very necessary replacement of the sagging infrastructure including any potential new sinkholes that could eat up your home, too.
But nobody from the governor’s office showed up in front of the hole to make this pitch, “You see what this sinkhole has done here, it’s only a matter of time before more of these pop up across the state which is why we need to take action.”
Frankly Gov. Rick Snyder can use all the help he can get because he faces that daunting assignment of finding that money to fix the roads, get the lead out of your water, fix the sewer systems, expand broadband to all parts of the state and basically drag the state’s post WWII infrastructure into the new century.
At the outset he concedes, he won’t raise $4 billion in the near term. “That would not be realistic,” he figures but adds, “This is a 40 to 50 year road map. The point is let’s start going down that road.”
The problem is a classic example of the legislature and other governors not having the foresight to address this problem over the past 40 or 50 years on an incremental, pay-as-you-go basis. Sure they slapped on a few Band Aids with more revenue for the roads, but most observers believe that won’t get the job done either.
For the first time Mr. Snyder has given a peek into one possible revenue source: Water.
The administration is considering slapping a small surcharge/levy on water. Water you drink, water companies take out of the ground to ship all over the world, water that is used in sewage systems, and if they do that, it could raise a boat load of money.
“That’s one of the ideas that is out there,” the governor explains but before a panic engulfs the water drinking public or legislators, he observes, “there’s a long list of things” out there and “we need to brain storm. I’m not going to jump to say it’s something that I’m proposing or even putting some package out yet.”
Mr. Snyder’s current thinking rejects the notion of one revenue source. “I would not use the term super fund.” Rather he is searching a variety of sources to cobble together the eventual $4 billion annual figure. “There is not going to be one omnibus solution to this or one single unitary solution. It’s going to be from a series of pieces built out to get the resources we need.”
When lawmakers approved a bailout program to save the Detroit schools they earmarked $70 million a year for the next eight to 10 years. When the $700 million is used, the governor says the money will remain in the budget and it could be diverted to infrastructure projects.
But do the math. He’s still $3.3 billion short but in his typical optimistic assessment he thinks, “there are a couple of dozen of those items. It starts adding up to a lot of money.”
Look for the governor to regurgitate his argument that you can pay me now or pay me a lot more later on. In the meantime Fraser hopes to dig out of its latest sinkhole that will take months while you are left to ponder, are we next? Be careful where you walk.