No tax dollars for new bridge. Period.

Legislation was recently introduced in the Michigan Senate to authorize the New International Trade Crossing project between Detroit and Canada. The bridge plan, formerly known as the Detroit River International Crossing, is not new to the Legislature. And while the plan has been modified, I still have serious reservations about this complex proposal. The most critical question is: will taxpayer dollars be spent to build the new bridge?

In May 2010, legislation narrowly passed the House despite substantial unanswered questions. I voted against that bill because my concerns were never resolved, and the measure died in the Senate for the same reasons. 

Bridge proponents note that Canada has offered to cover the state’s cost of $550 million for the new crossing, and Gov. Snyder has received an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation to count those funds toward meeting the state’s highway funding match requirement.

Beyond this specific proposal, I believe Michigan must continue to fight for our fair share of federal highway funds. I am extremely concerned with the state of our roads and bridges. It is about jobs, public safety and spending accountability.

Transportation infrastructure projects help ensure safe roads and employ thousands of Michigan workers. However, this process requires us to look at how we are spending the dollars we receive and how to improve the system for the long term.

Senate Bill 410 is one of the measures for the new proposal and it would:

  • Prohibit the state from expending any state funds on this project, including construction of the bridge, interchange and toll plaza;
  • Allow a private entity to build their own bridge;
  • Prohibit the new authority from incurring any debt or liability on behalf of the state; and
  • Enable legislative oversight on activities of the authority.

Even with those stipulations, I still have many unanswered questions, such as:  Would there be a fair and open process to allow private companies to competitive bid on building the bridge? Are we efficiently using all of the customs gates now, and if not, will we make improvements for this new crossing? And will Michigan taxpayers be on the hook for the cost of the bridge if toll revenues fail to meet projections and there is a default on payments?

Efficient trade across our borders is one key to Michigan’s economic recovery, especially considering that surface transportation trade between the U.S. and Canada totaled $471 billion in 2010.

It is our responsibility as legislators to balance the need to encourage increased trade and ensuring Michigan taxpayers are not burdened with millions of dollars in additional debt.

One thing I can definitively tell my constituents: I will not support a new international bridge if any state funds are used for its construction. Period.

Darwin L. Booher
State Senator – 35th District

Sen. Booher attends budget signing

LANSING— Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, joins Gov. Rick Snyder as the state’s 2012 budget, balancing a $1.5 billion deficit without one-time fixes or federal bailouts, is signed into law.

Pictured with the governor, (standing, from left) are: Booher, Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale; John Pappageorge, R-Troy; Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township; and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.

A print-quality photograph of Booher with Gov. Snyder is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s photowire at:
http://www.MISenateGOP.com/senators/photowire.asp?District=35

Senate cracks down on mortgage fraud

 

LANSING –-Legislation to help crack down on mortgage fraud and punish offenders was approved Tuesday by the state Senate, said Sen. Darwin Booher, lead sponsor of the package.

“Michigan homeowners continue to struggle in a tough economy, in which they face decreasing home values and family incomes combined with increased costs,” said Booher, R-Evart.  “While annually some consumers fall victim to mortgage fraud, it impacts the entire community and all taxpayers. These bipartisan reforms specifically address mortgage fraud in Michigan.”

The nine-bill package would create a crime for mortgage fraud and make that crime a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

“In my 40 years of experience as a banker in the private sector, I have seen the hope and excitement of families trying to fulfill the dream of homeownership,” said Booher, chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.  “It is time that we put an end to individuals taking advantage of that dream for personal gain by giving law enforcement the tools needed to investigate fraud, prosecute offenders and punish them appropriately.”

Senate Bills 249 and 250, sponsored by Booher, would increase the penalties for forging real property deeds or obtaining real property by false pretenses.  This would also enact thresholds to punish offenders more severely based on the amount of money they obtained.

Other bills in the package include reforms to:

  • Increase the statute of limitations for crimes involving real property transactions from 6 to 10 years;
  • Enact new elements for counterfeiting or forging real estate deeds and related documents including a sentence of up to 14 years in prison; and
  • Quadruple the penalty for violating the notary public law from to four years in prison.

 

The reforms are supported by Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and industry groups, including the Michigan Bankers Association, Michigan Credit Union League and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

Senate Bills 43, 44 and 249-253 have been sent to the House for consideration. Two other bills, House Bills 4462 and 4478, pertaining to forging deeds, are currently pending before the House Judiciary Committee.