Infrastructure Package Could Be Big Boost for Michigan, But Major Challenges Remain

Michigan’s Republican-led state Legislature still has not spent billions of dollars from the last round of federal stimulus money.

President Joe Biden has signed his $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure package into law, meaning that money will soon come down to states and local governments. But that’s where the next set of hurdles begins for possible infrastructure projects, including here in Michigan.

MichMash hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk with Zach Gorchow, the publisher and executive editor for Gongwer Michigan about what’s in the package for Michigan and what might stand in the way of that money resulting in shovels in the ground in the near future.

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Michigan will get at least $10 billion through this package for traditional infrastructure projects — and probably more when all is said and done. While that money will make a “pretty good dent” in fixing the state’s roads and bridge, Gorchow says it’s important to remember that this is a one-time deal.

“This is a really rare situation,” he says. “It’s definitely a big shot in the arm. But you know, what it is not is something that is going to carry on in perpetuity, which is, of course, different than what a fuel tax increase or something on that order would do.”

“The backlog of work is so deep, it would be like making no repairs to your house for 20 years.” –Zach Gorchow, Gongwer Michigan

Michigan has a troubling past when it comes to underground water infrastructure, from the Flint Water Crisis to the ongoing lead contamination in Benton Harbor. Parts of the state have also seen catastrophic flooding recently. Gorchow says there is money in the package for water infrastructure, but “this isn’t going to just magically allow the state to fix everything.”

“The backlog of work is so deep, it would be like making no repairs to your house for 20 years,” he says.

There’s also the issue of actually spending the money. The Michigan Legislature still has billions of dollars on the table from the last rounds of federal stimulus money that the Republican-led Legislature seems unwilling to allocate. Gorchow says a similar holdup could also happen with this new package.

Related: Reps. Dingell and Kildee Explain What Infrastructure Package Will Mean for Michigan

“I’m sure the Republicans are acutely aware that once they spend this money, the governor is going to start putting some wins on the board with it,” he says. “So is that what’s delaying it? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time politics entered into the equation.”

“That being said, the Republicans are still formulating some of their ideas, to be fair to them,” he continues. “So, they’re still, I think, figuring out something that is unnatural for Republicans, which is how do we spend a ton of money and a lot of money quickly. This is not comfortable turf for them.”

More from MichMash:

Infrastructure and Reconciliation Bills Could Have Big Impact on Electric Vehicles in Michigan

State Budget Deal Leaves Billions Unspent in Pandemic Year

Benton Harbor’s Water Crisis Finally Starting to Get More Attention After Three Years

School Voucher Supporters Hope to Get Around Whitmer’s Veto

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.