Coffee with Senator Wayne Schmidt
Blair Township Hall
Friday March 8, 2019
There were about 10 citizens in attendance. The first question asked was about the proposed 45 cent increase in the gas tax. Senator Schmidt was not encouraging about its chance of passing. He did acknowledge that it would bring in about 2.5 billion each year which is close to the projected needs. The legislature has currently about 1.2 billion marked for roads. I was unsure about whether 1.2 billion is a repeat investment in the roads for every year or a one-time catch up measure.
Sen. Schmidt also mentioned that we do not have enough contractors to do all the projects so doing it methodically will improve effectiveness of spending and results.
Senator Schmidt was encouraging about the improvement of the state auto insurance rates. He thinks there is the will to fix this. He also said that making the rates lower would help people pay for the increased gas tax. When asked about heavy vehicles and what they pay, he indicated that it depends on axles and that they are paying an equitable share for the roads.
Senator Schmidt claimed that there is very good
accounting for the catastrophic accidents fund and that all the 2.5 billion currently in the fund is spoken for by future needs of accident victims.
The Flint water crisis was discussed. He said that the state made mistakes. Flint and many other cities in Michigan have emergency managers because they promised pensions that they never funded. He also indicated that Flint officials failed as did federal officials. He added that Flint is getting a lot of financial help and they can fix their system. He said that other municipalities may have worse lead levels but are not getting as much financial support. He came over to me afterwards to make sure that I knew he thought what happened in Flint was awful but they were being helped adequately now.
PFAS took up a lot of discussion time because of the site in Blair. They have homes that want to hook up to the municipal system but the cost is prohibitive. (At the March 6 meeting the county did authorize some financial help through funds that have come back to the county from home repair loans). The municipal water system in Blair township has been tested and it not affected by PFAS. They are now mandated to do extensive and expensive testing for at least the next year.
One thing that stood out to me was that the Blair Elementary School is supplied by a well. The well has been tested and is free of PFAS. Blair Elementary School is not hooked up to the municipal water system at this time. There is hookup that is installed up to the school but has not been connected. It seems to me that getting the elementary school hooked up to a municipal water system, which will be extensively tested, is a smart preventative measure. Who knows if the PFAS may someday get into their well because of changes in the drawing of water from the aquifer. All groundwater is connected.
Senator Schmidt was asked about the East West Corridor study. He declined to give an opinion as he realizes that it is controversial with strong opinions on all sides.
Senator Schmidt is informed about issues. He does project the best view of what is happening. I was not able to press him on the actions of the lame duck session or his vote against Governor Whitmer’s reorganization of the DEQ and elimination of some of the industry dominated committees.