What we're talking about

Breaking news, legislative updates and the facts.

President Karla Swift: Lansing, come together to fix our roads

It is very easy to look at the results of this month’s elections and say that our state is divided. The months of ads and attacks leading up to Election Day were a reminder of how vitriolic our politics are. Yet only a few weeks after voters went to the ballot box, we have a chance to come together on an issue we can all agree on: fixing our broken roads.

Last week, the Michigan Senate took a step in the right direction to address this issue. The Senate’s actions represent the kind of long-term, common-sense, bipartisan solution that voters expect from our leaders in Lansing. Michiganians know the challenges ahead of us, and we know that if divided we cannot solve our state’s problems. We can, however, move mountains when united.

The Senate’s solution creates a balanced approach to ensuring that our state has the funds it needs to repair and maintain our roads and critical infrastructure. By combining gas fees and traffic fines for overweight and oversized vehicles, we can ensure that our families have roads safe to drive on. By putting politics aside and focusing on solutions that bring us together, we can ensure businesses can get their Michigan-made goods to market on time.

If passed and signed into law, this important infrastructure plan will also put people to work. Michigan’s unemployment rate remains above 7 percent, more than a full percentage point higher than the national rate. Michiganians, especially those in the building and construction trades, have been struggling to find work for years as we’ve come out of one of the hardest recessions in American history.

Let’s be clear; this is not only a win-win for everyone in our state, it is a basic necessity. Our cars cannot survive another winter of potholed roads and constant quick fixes. Our families should never risk driving over bridges that are structurally unsound. Our businesses should be focused on expanding and hiring workers, not putting money towards replacing truck parts due to unnecessary wear and tear.

I have heard from many of our members about the need to take decisive action to create jobs and improve our communities. These are our friends and neighbors. They don’t care about assigning credit, but about seeing work done, jobs created, and our state on the right path.

When people come together, we can do great things. When our leaders put working people and middle class families first, our state can succeed and prosper. The Michigan Senate’s actions, and the push by leaders in both parties to forge a long-term solution to our failing roads and infrastructure should serve as a shining example of how to move forward together to get things done.

Less than a month from Election Day, it’s important that our leaders not lose sight or simply forget the message voters so clearly delivered: It’s time to get to work and join to fix the problems of our great state. The first and best way we can come together to do that is by fixing the roads that connect us.

Karla Swift is Michigan state president of the AFL-CIO.

Get involved with the Michigan AFL-CIO

Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and bring economic justice to the workplace - and you can too.