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We pay for bad roads with more repairs, higher fuel costs

If by any chance you’ve left your house anytime in, oh, say, the last year, you may have noticed that our roads are in terrible shape. Gov. Rick Snyder knows this. Two years ago, he asked the Legislature for $1.2 billion a year for a decade in new money to fix the roads. If you think that’s a lot, you’re right.

But it is less than studies show our horrible roads are costing us every year in the increased cost of fuel and car repairs, as well as  the incalculable cost of businesses that won’t expand in or move to Michigan because our infrastructure is in such lousy shape.

The governor hasn’t always been a statesman, nor above pandering to the far right. But he is a businessman, and devoted to economic expansion. He knows you need decent roads to attract business, especially the kind that produce high-tech, high-paying jobs.

You would think that anyone of even average intelligence would get that too. But that doesn’t go for the Michigan Legislature, where they too often live in an alternate unreality. Here’s the latest example.

Two Republican members of the state House of Representatives, Greg MacMaster and Wayne Schmidt, are in a primary battle for a vacant state Senate seat. This is a district that includes the very top of the Lower Peninsula and the eastern third of the Upper Peninsula.

Last week, MacMaster accused Schimdt of just about the worst thing he could think of. No, it didn’t have to do with embezzlement, treason, or being caught with a dead woman or a live boy.

MacMaster accused Schmidt of wanting to raise taxes to fix our roads. Based on a vague statement in the online magazine Bridge, he accused his rival of having a secret plan to get his fellow lawmakers to raise fuel taxes to fix the roads.

The idea would be to slip the tax increase through in a so-called lame-duck session after the election. In an unintentionally hilarious comment, MacMaster piously denounced the idea of lawmakers doing anything “under the cloak of darkness” during a lame-duck session that relied on the votes of lawmakers who had nothing to lose because they wouldn’t or couldn’t run anymore.

That, of course, is precisely how Republicans passed right-to-work a little over a year ago. But memory is so overrated.

What Wayne Schmidt should have done is said, “Yes, you idiot, I want to raise revenues to fix the roads. They are getting worse every day, and we can’t get the needed money from what’s currently available. We need to save this state.”

Had he done that, I would have been tempted to quit my job and campaign for him. But Schmidt just squealed like a stuck pig, denied any plan to raise taxes, and swore allegiance to the fantasy that cobbling together a few hundred million out of existing revenues would be enough to do the job.

Voters know better, or should, and I think there might be a lot of support out there for politicians who would be willing to treat us like adults. At least, it would be nice if some of them would give it a try.