PROPOSAL 6: A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION REGARDING CONSTRUCTION OF INTERNATIONAL BRIDGES AND TUNNELS

prev
next

The people of Michigan deserve a voice on new bridge project

By Paul Opsommer
State Representative, 93rd District

For years supporters of the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor have promoted the benefits a new bridge would bring to Michigan.
As chair of the House Transportation Committee I have followed this matter with great interest. After reviewing all of the facts, I am deeply concerned that citizens in my district and statewide will be stuck sending their tax dollars to Detroit for an unneeded and unlawful project. I believe the people of Michigan deserve a say on this issue, that’s why I support Proposal 6.
In agreeing to indebt the people of Michigan to a foreign power without legislative approval, Gov. Snyder has taken a tremendous gamble on the future fiscal health of our state. There are too many uncertainties, and too much at stake, for taxpayers to be cut out of the decision making process for an infrastructure project of this magnitude.
The Legislature has tried to be a productive partner in this process. The fact remains, however, that during formal House committee hearings and following Senate Committee hearings, seven concerns have never been addressed:
(1) No investment grade study has been conducted to support claims that tolls will pay for the bridge.
(2) No legislative oversight is included in the agreement with Canada.
(3) No reference to the Michigan “Open Meetings Act” in the proposed agreement. Federal Courts have ruled this is needed to ensure American access to meetings.
(4) No ban or limit to the creation of a community benefits program for Detroit and Windsor. During House discussion Detroit wanted $100 million with no strings attached.
(5) The governor’s agreement violates PA 63 sec 384 passed by the legislators and signed by the governor. It states, “MDOT shall not commit the state to any new contract related to the construction planning or construction of the Detroit River International Crossing or a renamed successor unless the legislature has enacted specific enabling legislation to allow for construction.”
(6) The agreement has no reference to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Federal courts have ruled that the news and media outlets in New York have no standing when requesting information on New York/Canadian bridge authorities.
(7) The governor’s agreement violates PA 236 which was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in June of 2012.
In reference to concern number one, the House Transportation Committee received some additional information.
This past spring executives from the Detroit Windsor Tunnel and the Detroit Windsor Rail Tunnel testified that traffic increases between the two cities will not exceed 1.5 percent in the foreseeable future. This figure is consistent with economic forecasts related to the crossing needs given in both the Michigan House and Senate.
In addition, the “public private partnership” industry admits that projects of this scope and magnitude have large cost overruns and typically over estimate potential future revenue by as much as 50 percent. We have two examples of this happening right here in Michigan: our own Mackinac Bridge and the second span built between Port Huron and Sarnia.
Finally, Gov. Snyder has promised the NITC would bring jobs and enhance industry in our state. But as a Canadian Crossing Authority will control the design and construction of the bridge, and the governor has requested a waiver from federal requirements for the use of only U.S.-produced iron and steel, there is uncertainty as to whether the project would bring any benefits to Michigan.
Proposal 6 does not stop the construction of the bridge, it simply gives us a say. The governor may believe he can ignore the will of the people’s elected officials, but he cannot ignore the people when they voice their will directly.
That is why I will be voting “YES” on Proposal 6.
—————
State Rep. Paul Opsommer was elected to a second term in the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2008 representing residents of Clinton and Gratiot counties. He is the former vice-president for Action Management Corporation, a governmental and corporate training firm.

 

Proposal 6 is flagrant attempt to manipulate state constitution

By Sandy K. Baruah
President and CEO, Detroit Regional Chamber

The misinformation campaign in support of Proposal 6 has been historic. Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun is running a price check on Michigan’s constitution. The tens of millions he has committed — a record $31 million or more — is fueling a massive blitz intended to confuse and mislead voters into protecting his monopoly on truck traffic between Detroit and Windsor.
With the election just days away, it’s time to push aside the flood of misleading commercials and call Proposal 6 what it is. Proposal 6 is one special interest spending whatever it takes to hijack Michigan’s constitution under the guise of protecting voter sovereignty. Proposal 6 is bad public policy that undermines Michigan’s constitution and will jeopardize Detroit and Michigan’s fragile economic recovery. Voters across Detroit and Michigan need to protect their constitution and support Michigan’s future with a “No” vote on Proposal 6.
This potentially disastrous proposal manipulates the intent of the Michigan Constitution. As the state’s governing document, the constitution is designed to lay the framework for the principles by which our state government serves our citizens. It is intended to serve as the foundation from which governance emanates. Under no circumstances is the constitution intended to be amended on the whims of powerful special interests as is being threatened through Proposal 6. While amendments to the constitution serve an important purpose, they should be approached with caution and only utilized when absolutely necessary. Careless rewriting of the constitution will only lead to poor public policy that does a disservice to citizens and businesses throughout the state.
Legal experts have analyzed the flawed language in Proposal 6 and have determined it could require a statewide and local vote for any bridge, tunnel or overpass built in Michigan after January 1, 2013. Our state could essentially be forced to wait until the next election before being able to build a bridge anywhere in the state. This could potentially force communities that need key infrastructure improvements to wait while the cumbersome and expensive electoral process runs its course.
Proposal 6 could also thwart Michigan’s economic recovery by impeding crucial infrastructure projects like the New International Trade Crossing and Detroit rail tunnel that are poised to create thousands of jobs and millions in investment. Sharing a border with Canada is one of Detroit’s most important economic assets. It positions our region to be a major player in the global economy because Canada is Michigan’s largest trading partner with more than $70.2 billion in trade in 2011. In fact, more than 237,000 Michigan jobs depend on Canada-Michigan trade — 1 in 8 jobs in Southeast Michigan alone. Keeping this trade relationship robust is crucial to our economic success.
With truck traffic projected to increase by 128 percent over the next 30 years, Michigan’s current infrastructure is not equipped to accommodate the growing demands of international trade. Over 8,000 trucks cross the Detroit-Canada border daily and 99 percent of those cross the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which has no direct freeway-to-freeway access. Traffic is forced to travel 7 miles on a commercial street with 17 stoplights to reach Highway 401.
In the global market, minutes of delay cost businesses millions of dollars, particularly for the auto industry which depends on just-in time delivery. These frequent delays caused by traffic jams on the Canadian side of the current bridge significantly hinder economic expansion and businesses’ ability to compete. Failure to improve the flow of trade through key infrastructure projects will drive much needed investment elsewhere.
Let’s set the record straight. Proposal 6 is the product of a billionaire’s effort to protect his monopoly over the best interest of an entire state. It is a flagrant attempt to rewrite the constitution and dupe Michigan voters to benefit one special interest. While Proposal 6 may benefit Matty Moroun, it’s bad public policy and bad economics for Detroit and Michigan. Proposal 6 threatens Michigan’s economic recovery and the future of our state. It deserves your vote of “No” on November 6.
—————
Sandy K. Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a role he has held since March 2010. Immediately prior to his current position, Baruah served as a Distinguished Fellow and Executive Vice President of the Council on Competitiveness based in Washington, D.C. He also served as President Bush’s last Administrator of the United States Small Business Administration.