Commuting in a rural area means more miles, more gas and more vehicle maintenance costs, also a fact unlikely to go away.
The governor's plan would increase the 19 cent per gallon state gas tax on unleaded fuel and 15 cents per gallon on diesel both to 33 cents, as well as increase annual registration costs. The combined increases are estimated to cost about $120 per vehicle per year.
Those costs mark staggering jumps for people in Michigan, who are already paying about $4 per gallon for unleaded fuel.
You might wonder do we need these funds. Well, the Michigan gas tax has been locked in at those amounts for the past 16 years. Meaning, there hasn't been an increase to the gas tax to meet the rate of inflation during the entire life of drivers just getting their license to head out on our roads. The average gallon of gas in 1997 cost $1.19, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
During the same decade and a half since those prices increased, fewer and fewer gallons of gas have been bought as prices increase and more people transition to alternative commuting models such as cycling or public transit.
Those two combined factors have left local road commissions will smaller and smaller budgets each year.
Emmet County for example will be funded at $3.5 million from the Michigan Transportation Budget this year -- about the same amount it received 10 years ago.
If the gas tax had been adjusted for inflation, it would be closer to $4.8 million this year.
Overall the county is facing about $55 million in capital needs for roads, new equipment and facility updates. The funding was dire enough for the Emmet County Road Commission to ask Emmet County to extend it a multi-million dollar credit line this week to cover its facility needs.
There should be no question in the Michigan Legislature's minds these new revenues are needed. Gov. Rick Snyder's Administration estimates if ignored, the $1.2 billion annual need could result in a $25 billion need later for the state.
Based on the current situation, those are difficult numbers to deny.
Most difficult for lawmakers will be deciding on a funding option.
Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, has already been wading into this issue and deserves credit for doing the heavy limiting among the "fiscal conservatives" in his party.
He has introduced legislation to repeal the gas tax and substitute it with a 1 percent sales tax increase -- raising the Michigan sales tax to 7 percent -- with the new funding being dedicated only to transportation.
While the plan has support, it would only increase the current funding model by about $200 million annually.
Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, introduced a similar bill to raise the sales tax to 2 percent, also eliminating the gas tax. Conservatively, the bill would raise about $1.4 billion in new revenue.
Michigan last raised the sales tax from 4 percent in 1994. Raising it again would take a vote of the people statewide, which could both provide political cover for politicians and allow the public to decide.
Kicking the can down the -- ahem -- road isn't an option for the Great Lakes State.
Republican leadership has proven it has no problem riding out tough votes and should support its senators in finding the $1.2 billion annually the governor is seeking.
Roads have been politically forgotten long enough already.