Spread pain equally

To the Journal editor:

We all agree, Michigan must do something about its roads. I applaud our governor for making roads an early priority.

However, I would like to see a fairer approach to funding the work. A 45-cent per gallon spike in fuel prices would make it hard for some to buy fuel just to get to work.

Michigan already has among the highest fuel prices in the nation. Truckers are fueling up before entering or after leaving Michigan when they can. Will vacationers be willing to pay this steep increase just to drive on Michigan’s horrible roads?

What will that mean for spending a weekend in Travers City or exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or snowmobiling vast trail networks during winter?

Economically depressed rural areas like the Upper Peninsula are 400 miles from urban population centers. The economies there depend heavily on tourism dollars. A drop-off in tourism would potentially be devastating to small businesses like gas stations, restaurants, motels, grocery stores and other businesses that depend on foot traffic.

If this proposal is enacted, it would be another in a long line of regressive taxes enacted by the legislature. Regressive taxes, by their nature, require lower earning taxpayers to pay a much higher percentage of their wages in taxes than top earners do.

The fairest way to assess taxes is by taxing all forms of income and by taxing the property the taxpayer owns. This way, all taxpayers pay according to their ability to pay. All other taxes are regressive.

Bonding would be the least painful way to raise revenue. It would still require raising taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes but taxes is the price we pay to live in a civilized society. If each 0.1 percent increase for all forms of income generates $225-$250 million, 0.8 percent-1.0 percent increase should generate $2.0-$2.5 billion. And it would ensure that every taxpayer pays their fair share. This revenue would be put into a protected fund, designated for road work, so that the legislature could not raid it.

Unfortunately, Michiganders will foot nearly all of the bill. Look at it as a tax abatement for out-of-state drivers until the work is completed. So let’s get it done.

And it can’t be financed by down-shifting the responsibility for paying. Business and individuals must all pay their fair share.

Bill Nelson

Lansing