LANSING — Today in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Scott Dianda (D – Calumet) offered an amendment that would dramatically change how road funding is distributed in Michigan, successfully altering Senate Bill 281 to increase the amount of Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) revenues that local governments receive from the state. The amendment was adopted in committee on an 8 to 4 vote.
Highlighting the need to increase funding to county road commissions as well as Michigan’s cities, villages and townships, Dianda’s plan would allocate a larger percentage of the MTF to these local entities and away from the budget of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
“I think the locals have always been able to spend a buck better than the state government,” said Dianda. “I’ve been on the Transportation Committee for two years, and we haven’t talked about it. It’s time to have this discussion. There is a need.”
Currently, MDOT receives 39.1 percent of MTF revenues; county road commissions get 39.1 percent; and cities, villages and townships split the remaining 21.8 percent. Dianda’s formula would reduce MDOT’s share to 34.4 percent, and increase the counties share to 42.2 percent and cities, villages and townships to 23.4 percent.
Dianda has steadfastly refused to increase taxes on his constituents unless cost-cutting reforms are instituted at MDOT. The representative has proposed several measures he would take, among them: decreasing department employees’ reliance on air travel, asking the department to use a smarter system for awarding state contracts, and allowing MDOT’s highest-paid staff to retire in order to reduce the department’s bureaucracy.
“I’ve done what I can to work with the department to make sure that we the taxpayers are getting the most for our money,” Dianda said. “MDOT has not been interested in implementing these reforms. If we rethink the way we distribute our funding, we can give more money to our local governments and let the department come up with the savings.”