Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Speaker's $3.5 Billion Challenge

I do not claim to be an expert in American Political Science but I do know that the Speaker of the House in Michigan is one of the most powerful figures in Michigan State Government. The Michigan House website states:
  • "Leadership in the House is headed by the Speaker of the House...who makes committee appointments and designates which committee(s) each Representative will serve on."

Therefore, when the Speaker says something, then politicians whether a Governor (or someone running for Governor) or a head of a Department like MDOT better listen or one's political life could be quite unpleasant.

The Speaker, Craig DeRoche, issued a Press Release on the border that effectively warns the Governor and MDOT not to spend more money on DRIC and invites the Governor's opponent to support what he has said. It is one of the last chances that the Governor will have to act decisively on this issue and do something because Mr. Devos will. There is about $3.5 billion at risk being the cost of the new bridge and the Federal matching grants.

Read not only what the Speaker says very carefully but how he says it to understand how significant this Press Release will be for the next election and what will happen next. He is not talking about a few dollars either so it can grab the attention of voters quickly.

In my view, the Republicans have the Governor right where they want her on this issue, painting her as a spendthrift, not building needed roads and anti-Detroit. How will she react and is it now too late anyway?

Imagine, the City of Windsor helping to decide the Michigan Governor's election. And you had better believe that the Mayor's failure to fix the road to the border will be front and centre as well as we are used as the excuse for the broder crossing failure.
  • "For Immediate Release

    August 1, 2006

    DeRoche calls on governor and MDOT to reform river crossing process
    Keep important projects online - Don’t leave taxpayers footing the bill

    With the state transportation budget awaiting the governor’s signature, House Speaker Craig DeRoche today repeated his call that plans to add a crossing spanning the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor be fair to public and private interests, mindful of costs to state taxpayers and not put at risk important infrastructure projects throughout the state.

    “Massachusetts’ Big Dig should be Michigan’s big wake-up call,” said Speaker DeRoche, R-Novi.

    “If the governor and MDOT want to help the motorists of Michigan, they will do a better job ensuring the process is open to all parties and make sure taxpayers aren’t left footing the bill for a potential government boondoggle. That’s why the Legislature acted to put taxpayer protection language into the budget. I hope the governor will sign it, and MDOT will follow it.”

    As legislative hearings have revealed, MDOT, throughout the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) process, has curtailed opportunities for the project to be built, owned and operated by a private entity that would shoulder the expenses instead of taxpayers. In addition, public and community comment sought by MDOT and delivered in hearings appears to have been ignored by the department. In response to this and other concerns, the Legislature passed a budget amendment that allows no public funds to be used for the design or property acquisition by MDOT.

    “Coming from a county with massive infrastructure needs, I am very concerned that MDOT’s spending plans not only will rely completely on taxpayers, but will take away from other critical road needs in our state,” DeRoche concluded. “When we are talking about this much money, that is unacceptable.”


    NOTE: Below is the language contained in the conference committee report for the Michigan Department of Transportation budget:

    Sec. 384. The department shall not, directly or indirectly, expend any funds appropriated in Part 1 for design or right of way acquisition associated with a new crossing of the Detroit River between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.