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Jacobsen to focus on roads, keeping youth in Michigan

Jacobsen (click for larger version)
July 30, 2014 - Brad Jacobsen believes his work is not yet done.

That's why the 57-year-old Oxford resident is once again seeking the Republican nomination to run for the 46th District seat in the state House of Representatives.

"There's still things I would like to accomplish in Lansing, that we haven't been able to do, to help the State of Michigan," said Jacobsen, who was elected in 2010. "We've made great strides toward improving our economy (and) making Michigan more business-friendly (which has resulted in) more investment and more jobs."

If elected to a third term, Jacobsen wants to really focus his energy on two issues – improving roads and giving young people reasons to stay in Michigan.

It's a "major disappointment" to him that the state Legislature hasn't been able to "stabilize and improve our road system."

"That's one of the things I really want to strive for," said Jacobsen, a 1975 graduate of Oxford High School. "That's something that many of us campaigned on four years ago. We've made only marginal improvements."

Jacobsen said state officials have failed to come up with a stable way to generate the estimated $1.6 billion to $2 billion that's needed annually "to get Michigan roads back in line."

"It's estimated that we will need that type of money for at least 10 years to get our roads fixed up (to the point where we have) a good, quality system overall," he explained.

Although it's "not a popular idea in an election year," he believes the best way to obtain the extra funding necessary to improve Michigan's roads is by asking state voters to approve a 1 percent increase in the state sales tax, bringing it up to 7 percent.

"That 1 percent would be dedicated to roads," Jacobsen said. "That will raise about $1.2 billion a year. (Combined) with the money that we've (already) squeezed out of the budget (over) the last few years, we should be able to come up with $1.5 to $1.6 billion a year and that should get us on our way to fixing our roads."

Jacobsen, who served as a trustee on the Oxford Township Board from 1984 to 2000, believes a tax increase is the only way to solve the road funding problem.

"We have looked at all of our (existing) internal funding," he said. "There's not enough money there."

Increasing the state sales tax would yield a much more stable form of revenue, in Jacobsen's opinion, than simply increasing the gasoline tax.

"The proposal the (state) Senate was looking at last spring was based on how many gallons of gas we use a year, which is a losing proposition," he said. "We're using less gasoline every year. That's why sales tax makes more sense."

Jacobsen, who served on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners from 2006-10, explained the main reason people are using less gasoline is because today's vehicles are much more fuel-efficient.

"We've got vehicles that are getting more miles per gallon," he said. "That's the trend. We're using less gasoline every year, so why would be want to tie our road funding to a (decreasing) source of income? That doesn't make sense to me."

He also believes a sale tax hike is a much more equitable way to fund the necessary road improvements than increasing the gas tax, which would have less of an impact on folks who drive fuel-efficient and hybrid electric vehicles.

"If you've got a Chevy Volt that uses very, very little gas or a (Toyota) Prius that uses little gas, you're not paying your fair share (for roads through) gas taxes," Jacobsen said.

The other issue Jacobsen is passionate about is making Michigan a place "where our kids want to stay," instead of going to big cities like Chicago or other states like North Carolina. He wants to give them reasons to "stay here and be proud of their state."

He believes "the advancement and improvement of Detroit" and the state's other major cities is the key to keeping "our kids home."

"There's a fascination with Chicago, Charlotte (in North Carolina), New York, Dallas, Houston," Jacobsen said. "There's excitement (in these cities). There's entertainment venues. There's a draw for young people."

To convince young people to stay in Michigan, cities like Detroit must be able to provide all the elements of a "healthy, vibrant lifestyle" including good jobs, good infrastructure, good schools and easy access to arts and entertainment, according to Jacobsen.

When Detroit "went down the tubes," Jacobsen said "one of the concerns that many of us had" was it would drive more young people out of Michigan. That's why he voted in favor of giving Detroit $195 million to help settle its bankruptcy.

"If they sold the art in the museum, if Detroit just became a bigger wasteland than it has been, what's going to keep anybody in southeast Michigan?" Jacobsen said.

Looking back over his career in the state House, Jacobsen feels "honored that (he's) been asked by different people in leadership positions to take on and tackle some of the bigger issues."

He's especially proud that he spearheaded the successful effort to reform Workers' Compensation Insurance.

"It hadn't had a major overhaul since the early 1980s," he said. "We made multiple changes (by) working with unions, manufacturers' associations and chambers of commerce. We worked on it for almost two years."

According to Jacobsen, the end result was a "considerable" savings for smaller, local businesses and a more efficient and user-friendly system.

Right now, Jacobsen is working on reducing the speed limit on gravel roads from 55 to 45 miles per hour. "That is a tough nut to crack because the state police are not terribly interested in changing it," he said. "Nobody other than (people living in) Oakland and Macomb counties sees it as an issue."

Folks in the rest of state are "happy" with the 55 mph speed limit on gravel roads because "they don't understand" the desire of north Oakland County residents to walk, run, ride horses and pedal bicycles along these roads, and have "our kids feel safe at (school) bus stops," according to Jacobsen.

He said people in other parts of the state think all the roads in Oakland County are "paved with gold."

"They don't understand that the City of Birmingham still has some gravel roads," Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen realizes reducing the speed limit to 45 mph "won't make everybody happy," but "it will be a step in the right direction."

"It's probably the best deal we're going to get," he said. "We're hoping for that. It's not a done deal yet."

Jacobsen said the state Legislature will vote on the speed limit change "probably a year from now, if we're lucky."

Unlike many candidates who simply want to say "no" all the time to every idea, every issue and every proposal, Jacobsen said he's the candidate who asks "how?"

"How can we make it work? How can we make it better? How can we make progress?" he said. "Stalling and delaying things doesn't accomplish anything. We need to be able to work together to move things forward to the betterment of all of our citizens."

Jacobsen believes that while it's important for candidates and officials to stick to their principles, they also "have to be able to work with people to make progress."

"I want to make sure that Michigan keeps moving forward and to do that, we have to work together," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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