Legislators need to repair Michigan roads

Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014
Legislators need to repair Michigan roads story image
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 October 22, 2014 07:28 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pace of corporate earnings reports eases today.

Boeing will have its numbers out before the market opens this morning, while AT&T is scheduled to release earnings after the market closes.

This morning, the Labor Department releases its Consumer Price Index for September. There's been little sign of inflation in recent months. Prices actually dropped two-tenths of a percent in August, with gasoline, airline tickets and clothing prices all falling. It was the first decline since a similar drop in April or 2013.

APEC-FINANCE MINISTERS

BEIJING (AP) -- Asia Pacific finance ministers are meeting today in Beijing to consider coordinated responses amid concerns over a slowdown in the regional economy highlighted by lower Chinese growth figures.

Opening the meeting of 21 ministers from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said recovery from the global economic downturn had been tepid.

But he said China was on track to meet its loose goal of 7.5 percent growth for the year, with inflation stable and the economy set to produce more than 10 million new jobs.

Meeting participants, including those from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, will discuss the regional economic outlook and discuss possible coordinated action to respond. An APEC news release said ensuring financing for infrastructure was among the issues to be discussed.

OBIT-NELSON BUNKER HUNT

DALLAS (AP) -- Nelson Bunker Hunt, a Texas oilman who once tried to corner the silver market with one of his brothers only to see the move end in financial disaster, has died. He was 88.

His brother, W. Herbert Hunt, says Nelson died Tuesday at a Dallas assisted-living center after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Hunt was among the world's wealthiest men. His father was legendary Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, who left behind a multibillion-dollar fortune and Placid Oil Co., once one of the biggest independent oil companies.

But a huge, soured bet on the silver market by Hunt and his brother, Herbert, led to legal problems and bankruptcy after the price of silver collapsed.

The brothers agreed to lifetime bans from trading in commodities futures and a $10 million penalty.

Nelson Bunker Hunt filed for bankruptcy in 1988, and much of his remaining fortune was liquidated to pay creditors and the IRS.

A funeral is scheduled Friday.

EARNS-YAHOO

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (AP) -- A huge windfall from Alibaba's recent IPO has sent Yahoo's earnings soaring.

The Internet company earned $6.8 billion in the third quarter, or $6.70 per share. That compares with income of $297 million, or 28 cents per share, last year.

While Alibaba accounted for most of the difference, Yahoo's revenue also rose slightly, after posting quarterly declines for most of the past five years.

Yahoo's third-quarter revenue totaled $1.15 billion, up 1 percent increase from last year. The uptick included more than $200 million in revenue from mobile devices. That represented 17 percent of Yahoo's total revenue for the three months that ended in September, an indication that CEO Marissa Mayer's emphasis on designing sleeker applications for smartphones and tablets is starting to pay off.

EARNS-DISCOVER FINANCIAL

RIVERWOODS, Ill. (AP) -- Discover Financial Services says its third-quarter net income increased nearly 9 percent to beat market expectations.

The credit card issuer and lender's gains were made on increased credit card spending and overall lending.

Discover says its net income after preferred dividends rose to $630 million, or $1.37 per share. That compares with $579 million, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier. Revenue net of interest expense rose to $2.19 billion from $2.06 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.34 per share on revenue of $2.2 billion.

Shares of the Riverwoods, Illinois-based company ended regular trading up $1.68 to $64.38 and added 13 cents in extended trading following the report.

INSURER-EBOLA

UNDATED (AP) -- Global property and casualty insurer Ace Ltd. says it may exclude Ebola coverage from some of its general liability policies.

The Swiss company says it's making the decision on a "case by case" basis for new and renewal policies for U.S.-based companies and organizations that travel or have operations outside the U.S.

Ace says it's evaluating the risk for clients that might be present in select African countries with higher exposure to the Ebola virus.

While Ace may be the first to disclose such a move, Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, says it is standard practice for insurers to regularly reevaluate the risk to their policies.

AMGEN-THIRD POINT

UNDATED (AP) -- A hedge fund run by a famed investor says it has taken a large stake in Amgen and now wants the biotech drugmaker to consider splitting up into two.

In a letter to investors, Third Point, a hedge fund run by Daniel Loeb, says it has recently increased its stake by an unspecified amount, making it one of the drugmaker's top shareholders. According to FactSet, Third Point already owned about 450,000 Amgen shares, a stake worth roughly $64.8 million.

In response, Amgen says its board and management are continually assessing the company's business.

JAPAN-TRADE

Japan's exports up in September; deficit persists

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade deficit edged higher in September though exports rose more than expected as the yen weakened to a near six-year low.

Japan's Finance Ministry says exports jumped 6.9 percent from a year earlier in September to 6.38 trillion yen ($59.6 billion) while imports rose 6.2 percent to 7.34 trillion yen ($68.6 billion). That left a deficit of 958.3 billion yen ($8.96 billion), compared to a shortfall of 943.2 billion yen a year earlier.

Japan's currency dropped to nearly 110 yen to the U.S. dollar in September, potentially helping to make Japanese products cheaper abroad. Today, it was trading near 107 yen to the dollar.

Economists expect the U.S. economic recovery to give Japan's exports a long-awaited boost -- despite a weaker yen, demand had remained weak and the trade deficit has remained a drag on growth, thanks partly to imports of oil and gas to compensate for the country's loss of generating capacity after reactors were idled following the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY-SCRAPPED METAL

DETROIT (AP) -- The city of Detroit plans to sell 13 million pounds of copper wire from its public lighting operation.

Financial consultant Gaurav Malhotra testified Tuesday in Detroit's bankruptcy trial that the city is budgeting for $25 million over six years from such a sale, but the scrapped metal could bring in about $40 million.

Detroit is phasing its electricity service over to DTE Energy Co.

Thieves have targeted below-ground and overhead wires, which they sell to scrap metal operations. They also have contributed to widespread blight in Detroit by stealing wire, copper pipes, fixtures, air conditioners and anything else of value from vacant houses.

Federal Judge Steven Rhodes has said he expects to make a ruling in early November on the city's plan to get out of bankruptcy.

SPORTS BETTING

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The four major U.S. pro sports leagues and the NCAA have made another court filing in their efforts to stop New Jersey from allowing legalized sports betting.

The order to show cause was filed Tuesday in federal court in Trenton. The NFL, the NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA want a judge to temporarily prevent New Jersey's casinos and racetracks from taking sports wagers.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Friday signed a law that effectively repeals the state's ban on sports wagering. Monmouth Park racetrack says it plans to accept bets starting Sunday.

A federal judge is expected to rule this week.

The two sides have been fighting in court since 2012, when Christie signed a law authorizing sports betting. Only Nevada offers single-game betting, and three other states are allowed to sell sports parlay pools.

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