The proposed new bridge that will connect Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Canada is going to be test voted today by a Michigan state committee. The project, fully supported by Governor Rick Snyder, is being opposed by many fellow Republicans who want a guarantee that no taxpayer money will be spent on the project.
The project, which Snyder called for at the beginning of the year, has been stalled repeatedly but there is now a chance that Michigan voters will decide the bridge’s fate in a statewide vote. This may not be the best news for those who support the project as lobbying by Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who has spent millions on TV ads, lobbying and campaign donations to fight the bridge is swaying public opinion. Moroun is the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, currently the main connection between the motor city and Windsor. According to The Detroit News,
“The conservative group Americans for Prosperity released a poll it commissioned about the bridge.
Asked whether they support a new bridge that “would be funded, built, and managed by the Michigan and Canadian governments,” 49 percent of respondents said they were opposed, and 31 percent said they were in favor.
The poll of 600 registered voters, conducted by the firm inc./WomanTrend has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Of those polled, 37 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 32 percent as Republicans and 22 percent as independents.”
Dissent among Michigan Republicans could mean failure for the project even though they hold a majority in both the state House and Senate (26-12 in Senate, 63-46 in the House). Republicans want the project to have no cost to taxpayers. Snyder has claimed that it will be “privately funded but publicly owned.” The Canadian government has pledged to cover their $550 million share of the $3.6 billion project.
The lobbying of Moroun has seemed to work however as many insiders are claiming that there is no way they will come up with the votes. Snyder said the following of Moroun’s lobbying at a trade and transportation group meeting in East Lansing.
“Unfortunately, there is really just one special interest that has another bridge that’s against their financial interest, and they’re spending a tremendous amount of money on misinformation, and it’s having an impact.
Moroun’s lobbying is based in the misinformation that taxpayers will bear the brunt of the bridge’s costs although it has been the objective of everyone in favor of the bridge to pass legislation that lays zero responsibility on the taxpayers. Moreover, jobs would be created for taxpayers if the bridge were to pass. Tom Shields, a spokesman for the coalition of government, business and labor groups backing the bridge, recently told the Detroit Free Press,
“A misleading marketing campaign by bridge opponents — including the owners of the Ambassador Bridge — has tried to convince people that Michigan taxpayers would be required to bear the cost of the new bridge.
Shields said that assertion is “a flat-out lie” that ignores an agreement by the Canadian government to cover Michigan’s share of construction costs, and language in the legislation itself that holds Michigan taxpayers harmless in any event.
He acknowledged that the multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign mounted by the Ambassador’s owners has deepened public skepticism about the bridge project and made it difficult for some lawmakers to support it.”
Snyder has said that the bridge is necessary to create jobs in the region and many Democrats have stated they will only be on board if provisions are made to reimburse those displaced by the project and a promise is made to hire locally and create job training. Currently there is no concrete mention of either of these stipulations in the legislation.
This past week, MyFoxDetroit reported that the issue may go straight to the voters in a statewide vote being that the project seems completely stalled. Many Michigan residents favor this measure according to Republican Senator Mike Kowall from Oakland County, who told MyFoxDetroit,
“That’s the guarantee that I think a lot of people have been calling the office are looking for, that I’ve been hearing from the general public, put it out for a vote,”