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Legislators need to repair Michigan roads

Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Already there are potholes out there that seem more like sinkholes, with some of them seemingly large enough to swallow a city.

And it's only getting started.

Just wait until the ice starts to dramatically thaw, and expansion gives way to contraction.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says maybe, at long last, it's time for legislators to put aside their aspirations for re-election and start spending some real money to, once again, make driving in Michigan a tolerable experience.

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If you're in the business of fixing cars beaten up by our crumbling roads and bridges, you might have financial reason to think things are okay just the way they are.

And why not?

According to news reports, the average yearly cost of fixing each one of our state's 7 million vehicles is $536. That's the annual cost per car for added fuel consumption, tire wear and tear, shocks, axles, and other repairs--not to mention lower trade-in values--for a total of more than $2 billion.

That's twice as much as the Governor and all his horses are hoping to cobble together to attack the problem this year.  The State of Michigan, its counties, townships and cities, have all gone over-budget this year just trying to cope with all the record-setting cold and snow.

There's pretty much nothing left.

But its not as though this problem snuck up on us--we've been in a patch, patch, patch mode for decades. This state, with its illustrious automotive history, the state that still puts the nation on wheels, has many of the worst roads  in the country.

They're not just ugly, uncomfortable and costly--they're dangerous.  And the only way to change that is to replace them.

This is where the governor and the legislature have got to stand up and be counted. No one likes new taxes--particularly elected officials who's number one priority is to get reelected.

Nonetheless, new roads and bridges aren't free. And we need more money to get the job done. And no, we can't take any more away from education.

The  idea most widely discussed is a percentage tax on fuel--that way when the price of gas goes up, so does state revenue.

No, its not fun to pay more for anything these days. But the money has to come from someplace. And its not going to come from the feds.

In fact, just today federal transportation officials said the highway trust fund will be insolvent by next year, and that unless Congress allocates billions more dollars for road construction, there won't be much going on anywhere.

To give you an idea where we stand on spending per capita among states a lot like us:
  • In Minnesota its $315.
  • In Ohio its $235.
  • In Wisconsin, $231.
  • And here in Michigan: $174.
Not enough.

Look--we are, all of us, already paying out tons of money to fix our cars because we have terrible roads.

For me, I'd be willing to pay a little more now so I can pay a little  less in the future.

In Lansing, it's going to take some political fortitude in this election year to make that happen.

But isn't that why people run for office in the first place? To get things done? To make things happen? To do the right thing? Is that too much to ask?

We need new roads and bridges. And we need to get started right now.

In this corner, I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on August 28, 2015 17:24 GMT

FED-RATES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer says that incoming economic data and market developments will likely determine whether the Fed boosts interest rates in September.

Fischer says that before the recent turbulence in financial markets, there was a "pretty strong case" for starting to hike rates in September. But he adds that the Fed is watching how events unfold following the surprise announcement by the Chinese that they plan to devalue their currency.

Fischer says that central bank officials have not made a decision yet on whether to raise rates but would be closely following data such as next week's jobs report and market moves before the Sept. 16-17 meeting.

Fischer said the plan is still to move rates up very slowly and gradually.

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers increased their spending by a moderate amount in July, while income growth was propelled by the largest jump in wages and salaries in eight months.

The Commerce Department says spending rose 0.3 percent in July, helped by a big jump in purchases of big-ticket items such as cars. June's result was revised up to a matching 0.3 percent gain.

Incomes increased 0.4 percent. The key category of wages and salaries rose 0.5 percent, the biggest advance since last November.

The report indicates that consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, got off to a good start in the third quarter. Economists believe the economy will be fueled in the second half of this year by solid income and spending gains.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Plummeting stock prices have taken a toll on U.S. consumer confidence, though there are signs the setback may be temporary.

The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index fell to 91.9 this month from 93.1 in July. The index is still up 11.4 percent from a year ago.

The figures provide an early read of the impact on consumers from the 1,900 point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average over six days through Tuesday. Stock prices have since recovered some of those losses.

The University of Michigan surveys consumers throughout the month and so some of the responses were tallied as the stock market plunged.

Even so, the survey also found that Americans remain confident about the U.S. economy and their personal finances.

FACEBOOK-ONE BILLION A DAY

NEW YORK (AP) -- You, your mom, your grandma and elementary school buddy Lawrence might have been some of the billion people who logged in to Facebook on Monday -- the first time that has happened in a single day. That's right, one billion people, or one-seventh of the Earth's population.

It was a big symbolic milestone for the world's biggest online social network, which boasts nearly 1.5 billion users who log in at least once a month. CEO Mark Zuckerberg marked the occasion with a Facebook post.

Most of the billion people who logged in on Monday were outside the U.S. and Canada. Of Facebook's overall users, more than 83 percent come from other countries. This is also where Facebook's next billions of users will likely come from as it grows.

CHEATING WEBSITE-CEO

NEW YORK (AP) -- The CEO of adultery website Ashley Madison is stepping down in the wake of the massive breach of the company's computer systems and outing of millions of its members.

Avid Life Media Inc., Ashley Madison's parent company, says Noel Biderman's departure was a mutual decision and in the best interest of the company.

Hackers originally breached Avid Life's systems in July and then posted the information online a month later after the company didn't comply with their demands to shut down.

Ashley Madison, whose slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair," purports to have nearly 40 million members.

GOP 2016-TRUMP-TAXES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is promising to offer a plan within a month to overhaul the tax system, calling himself "king of the tax code."

He's been hinting at such a plan recently, saying that wealthy Americans should pay more.

In a phone-in interview Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show, Trump says, "I know the hedge fund guys. ... These guys don't really build anything. They shuffle papers back and forth."

Trump says he'll unveil a plan to simplify the tax code and eliminate some deductions, asserting "nobody knows the tax code better than I do."

Trump says hedge fund managers are big supporters of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and GOP rival Jeb Bush and adds, "I will have a plan."

He says hedge fund managers won't be happy.

PENTAGON-TECHNOLOGY

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter is announcing that the Pentagon will fund a new venture to develop cutting-edge electronics and sensors that can flex and stretch and could be built into clothing or the skins of ships and aircraft.

The high-tech investment could lead to wearable health monitors that could be built into military uniforms or used to assist the elderly. Or it could foster thin, bendable sensors that could be tucked into cracks or crevices on weapons, ships or bridges where bulky wiring could never fit. The sensors could telegraph structural problems or trigger repair alerts.

Carter plans to lay out the details for the newly created high-tech innovation institute in a speech Friday in California's Silicon Valley.

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