Following his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder reiterated the need to find a way to raise $1.2 billion in funding per year in order to fix the state's crumbling roads to more than 400 people that attended the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday.
Snyder said roads are a topic he is "really fired up about."
He called for raising vehicle registration fees and changing the current 19 cents per gallon gas tax to a percentage tax based on the wholesale rate that would allow it to grow with inflation.
While legislators are looking at alternative ways to fund road improvements, Snyder said he preferred to do it fairly.
"There are other ways to do it, but my preference is to do it through user fees," he said. "To say the people using the roads, getting value out of the roads, should pay for it. I think the fairest answer is to stick to the basics - if you're going to use the road a lot, then you can pay a little bit more for the road."
Snyder said the costs would be on average an additional $120 per year, but would vary greatly depending on the value of the car and how many miles a person drives.
Without the additional $1.2 billion per year in funding, Snyder said roads will continue to crumble and in 10 years, would cost $25 billion to repair - more than two times as much currently.
"It's preventative maintenance such as changing the oil in your car," he said. "You pay now, pay periodically or have giant bill in the future. That bill doesn't go away, it only grows unless we make the investment."
Snyder also said that Michigan pays on average $81 more per year on vehicle repair costs than surrounding states like Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.
In addition, it would also generate about 12,000 jobs, according to Snyder.
Brighton Mayor Jim Muzzin said he thought Snyder gave a good presentation on the heels of his address Wednesday night. Muzzin, who also works for Corrigan Oil Company, said he disagreed with the governor's preference to change the gas tax to increase road funding.
"I know it hasn't been touched since 1997, but from a personal standpoint, I don't think the gas tax is the way to do it," he said. "That's going to be an interesting battle. I agree with the concept of increasing it $120 per year and paying now instead of paying later. That's always how we try to run the local government too - more of a do the maintenance now and pay the $25 now instead of five times that in five or ten years."
Education and jobs are all about supply and demand
Snyder also touched briefly about education and jobs during a question and answer session after his speech.
He said the biggest topic he is focused on right now is the question of talent.
"We have a screwed up system in our country about matching the supply and demand for jobs," he said. "We have a lot of people looking for a job and we have a lot of open jobs. We have probably 50,000 to 80,000 open jobs in Michigan today. They're not being filled because of skill requirements or they're in certain locations. Why aren't we doing a much better job of matching supply and demand."
Snyder plans to address the issue by holding an Economic Development Summit in March, where he will bring in the private sector to talk about talent needs such as skilled trades to aggregate demand.
He will follow that meeting with a statewide Education summit in April to talk about supplying those talent demands.
Brighton Area School Board Trustee and local business owner John Conely agreed wholeheartedly with Snyder's supply and demand strategy.
"It falls on educational system of state to educate young and aspiring students for the opportunities that are here and those that will be created," he said. We have to forecast the needs of our students - which is what's used in business - forecast the needs, wants and put this together and have our students geared in that direction so they have a successful opportunity when they enter the workforce."
Conely said he is a firm believer in internships and real work situations and would like to see students having those experiences starting in middle school.
"It's important to get the fire lit for young people to become passionate - whether they're going to be a journalist, a doctor, a mechanic - whatever they decide."
"I'm committed to reinventing Michigan, not fixing Michigan - fixing Michigan is not good enough," Snyder said.