As November 6 nears, Proposal 6 and the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) are likely top-of-mind for many Michigan voters.
Governor Snyder has portrayed the bridge issue as cut and dry: Michigan will get a "free" bridge, with the cost shouldered entirely by Canada. While this sounds good in theory, there are still many pressing issues for which the governor simply has no answers.
Before going to the polls, consider these facts:
- No investment-grade study has ever shown traffic levels will generate enough toll revenue to pay for the bridge, let alone to repay Michigan's $550 million loan from Canada. Is it wise to predicate an infrastructure project of this scale on mere "build it, and they will come" assurances?
- The government bridge is not "free." The state has already spent $41 million studying the issue, a new customs plaza will cost U.S. taxpayers (Michiganders included) $263 million, and traffic moving to the NITC will cost the state millions in lost tax and toll revenue at existing crossings. Canada simply will not cover Michigan's on-going costs of the "free" bridge.
- The Crossing Agreement contains termination and amendment clauses (pages 36 and 40) that allow Canada to walk away at any time -- hardly "ironclad."
- There is nothing in the Crossing Agreement that assures Canada will cover cost overruns that are known to plague infrastructure projects of this sort. Michigan is moving forward with a purely verbal understanding and with the governor's expectation that a written agreement on cost overruns will happen at an undetermined point later in the process.
- There is no assurance that the project will actually benefit or utilize American workers, because a Canadian-controlled Crossing Authority will oversee the design, construction, and operation of the bridge. As the governor has requested a waiver from Buy America requirements, the Crossing Authority will be under no obligation to use any American steel in the NITC.
- The Canadian government recently exempted the NITC from receiving numerous permits and adhering to environmental laws -- waivers that would also negate environmental-protection efforts during construction on the Michigan side. This is an instance of Canada imposing its own legislative action on Michigan, an affront to U.S. sovereignty.
It is exactly these concerns that led the Legislature to reject the government bridge proposal, and to pass four laws that explicitly bar the state from building the NITC without its consent. The Legislature willingly provided that consent for previous bridge authorities, such as the Mackinac, Blue Water and International. Sadly, the governor circumvented the Legislature, unilaterally signing the Crossing Agreement with Canada.
However, this November, Michigan voters have an opportunity to reinsert democratic principles into the NITC debate that thus far, Governor Synder has been working to undermine with his simplistic, "free bridge" rhetoric and empty promises that don't stand up to the facts.
Proposal 6 is a chance to ensure the people are afforded the opportunity for self-determination when their representatives have been ignored and their tax dollars are on the line -- and it's also simple common sense.
This November, vote YES on 6 for a choice on the bridge.