Water pipes, DPS and our roads: Pay me now or pay me later?

- Pay me now or pay me a lot more later on. The guy at your local oil change shop is not the only person muttering those words of wisdom.

The state’s CEO who governs with a spread sheet has made that argument numerous times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.

It did not work on Gov. Rick Snyder's road fix package. He wanted a lot more money to fix the roads long term, but had to settle with a lot less and it will likely be left to a new governor to try his or her hand at the long term solution, which will cost more money then than it would now.

This governor is also applying the argument to the Detroit school rescue package. Lawmakers have a choice to spend $715 million over the next ten years to eliminate the deficit in the financially challenged system or some judge may order legislators to spend two times that amount down the road.

The betting money is, the DPS deal will be worked out.

However, on other issues, the long term fix notion does not resonate with lawmakers because it is hard to get re-elected by promising voters that something good will happen ten years down the road.

In this instant gratification world we live in today, where everyone wants it now and not later on, you can understand why politicians play to that need.

Take the recently proposed infrastructure package of $165 million that the governor proposed.

In the wake of the Flint water crisis, the whole state is now on alert that lead in the pipes is not confined to Buick City. The potentially dangerous lead dots every little berg between Monroe and Marquette.

And eliminating those dots will be expensive and the fix will not come overnight. Hence the governor suggested a down payment to get the ball rolling.

But then a nasty touch of reality. Turns out the bean counters discovered a $460 million hole in the budget over the next two years. It’s the old bug-a-boo about incoming revenue not keeping pace with outgoing revenue.

With this being an election year for house members they never considered raising taxes to make up the difference, leaving only one other option - cutting state services.

Higher education took a hair cut of $20 million. They were set to enjoy a $60 million state increase but had to settle for $40 million instead.

And with literally no debate, lawmakers moved next to the infrastructure repair fund. In an instant, poof it was virtually reduced to pennies. About enough to fix the lead pipe in one town.

Of course, it is not just the lead pipes that are part of the long term infrastructure dilemma. There’s the aging sewer system, crumbling school buildings built during the post-war boom in 1945, and talk to local officials and they’ll rattle off a whole host of neglected projects that remain just that, neglected.

Ever the forward thinker, the governor, has created a mammoth infrastructure commission which is laboring over how to address this mess long term. When in doubt created a study commission.

There’s a better than even chance, it will recommend long term funding solutions which will make logical sense but political sense is quite another thing.

As for pay me now or pay more later, talk to your grandkids about that as they will likely be the ones stuck with the higher costs to fix what the current batch of leaders are not likely to do.
 


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