A recent analysis of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed road funding plan shows that the gulf between counties like Livingston and those in the state’s more rural northern areas would greatly increase.

According to the analysis published Sunday by Crain’s Detroit Business, Whitmer's $2.5 billion road-funding proposal, which includes a 45 cent per gallon gas tax hike, would widen the difference between outstate and downstate counties. However, that gulf is already pretty wide. Livingston County currently receives $123 per registered vehicle from the state to fund county and local roads, and has about half of its roadways classified as in poor condition. In contrast, the Crain’s analysis compared that to Keweenaw County at the tip of the Upper Peninsula, which is the state’s least populated county and gets $773 per vehicle, while more than three-fourths of its roads are in “good or fair condition.”

The reason for the disparity is the Act 51 road-funding formula that dates back almost 70 years. Enacted in 1951, it treats four-lane thoroughfares the same as two-lane country roads. Under Gov. Whitmer’s proposal, the Livingston County Road Commission would see total annual funding increase by 25%, or nearly $5.5 million, by 2021. That equates to an extra $31 more per Livingston County’s more than 177,000 vehicles. While Keweenaw County’s road commission would see a similar rise, about 24%, that works out to an increase in funding of $239 per that county’s 2,080 vehicles.

It’s that per-vehicle disparity that has many taking aim at Act 51. However, Mike Craine, the Managing Director of the Livingston County Road Commission, tells WHMI, “Generally Act 51 works. Michigan is so diverse that there will always be some gaps. The formula has been changed many times since 1951 and still tries to balance the needs of the state.” He says the bigger problem is that the total amount of funds distributed under the formula is inadequate and he thinks that while, “there is consensus that we need a big increase in funding to catch up with the deferred maintenance” the debate about how to allocate those dollars will be, “an easier one when there is enough money in the bill.”

But with Gov. Whitmer’s gas tax hike being declared “dead on arrival” by GOP leadership in both the state House and Senate, exactly where that funding would come from remains unclear. (JK)