Truth Squad calls flagrant foul on new round of bridge ads

Originally posted by the Michigan Truth Squad

The People Should Decide is a ballot question committee funded, according to available campaign finance statements, almost entirely from interests linked to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun and his family. Proposal 6 is a constitutional amendment to require a public vote before the state of Michigan could participate in an international bridge or tunnel project. The proposal is aimed at the Next International Trade Crossing, a bridge between Detroit and Windsor that will compete with Moroun’s Ambassador for freight and passenger traffic.


“It may end up being free during their term in office, but eventually we the people are going to be paying big for it.”

The primary line of attack used by Moroun interests against the NITC project has been the “public will pay” claim. As far back as 2010, the government of Canada extended an offer to cover Michigan’s $550 million share of initial costs for the project, which Canada would cover with tolls. That offer, along with a pledge by Canada to cover the bills should tolls prove insufficient, is incorporated in the agreement signed June 15.

“Quit being so arrogant with our money.”

What money? The ad does not say. The agreement between Michigan and Canada places the financial onus of the NITC project on the Canadian and U.S. governments (the federal government will fund the cost of the customs plaza on the Michigan side of the bridge).

The Michigan Department of Transportation calculated that $42 million has been spent on studies and planning regarding a second Detroit-Windsor bridge.

“That’s our money that the politicians are spending.”

Again, “our money” is not explained.

“There’s a huge Michigan debt clock that’s ticking and getting bigger all the time.”

This is a new claim from the Moroun camp. The phrase “debt clock” evokes the ongoing national debate over the federal debt and websites, such as this one, that track its movements.

The most recent comprehensive financial report for state government, for the year ending Sept. 30, 2011, reported, “The state’s total long-term bonded debt as of September 30, 2011, was $7.3 billion, an increase of $268.6 million from the prior year. The increase represents the net difference between new issuances, payments, and refundings of debt.”

Between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011, the state’s total liabilities grew by about $800 million. During the same span, the state’s total assets grew by about $1.4 billion.

Michigan’s general bond rating, from the rating agency Standard & Poor’s, was AA- in May 2012, down from a rating of AAA (the highest) in 2002.

It is not clear how this reference applies to the NITC project or Proposal 6 since the state of Michigan, under the June 15 agreement, is not incurring debt.

“We can’t go out and start building bridges. Our grandkidsare going to have to pay that off.”

See above on reference to agreement between Canada and Michigan for Canada to cover bridge project’s costs.

For context, the Michigan Department of Transportation says it owns 4,407 National Highway System structures greater than 20 feet long. A count including all agencies of NHS bridges longer than 20 feet yields 10,967.

How can they tell us there’s no money for education and schools, but there’s money for a bridge.”

Again, the June 15 agreement puts the onus on Canada to fund construction of the bridge project. The Legislature has not made an appropriation for construction costs for NITC. The state funds “education and schools” primarily through the School Aid Fund, a restricted state account.

“Somebody’s going to end up paying for that bridge, and it’s going to be our children.”

Again, there is no explanation for this claim. Canada is pledged to finance construction, including Michigan’s share, and recover its investment via tolls collected. If tolls are insufficient, the June 15 agreement puts Canada in charge of covering the difference.

“Do you know how many police, firefighters, teachers, could we hire with the money they’re going to spend on this bridge?”

Another leading and unsupported claim. State dollars have not been appropriated to build the bridge. In fact, it’s possible to construct a reverse argument on this point:

Gov. Rick Snyder negotiated with the federal government to allow Michigan to use the $550 million state “share” (which Canada is covering) toward the state’s total investment for federal matching funds for highway work. As detailed in this report from the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, that deal will mean $2.2 billion in federal highway funds – which can be spent across the state. Such federal funds, in theory, would lessen pressure on state lawmakers to appropriate money from the state general fund for road work – general fund money that also can be used to bolster police, fire and school ranks.

For further context, Moroun family interests have been the primary funders – say the most recent campaign documents available– of Proposal 5, a constitutional amendment that would require supermajorities of the Legislature to enact tax changes. If Prop 5 passes, the likelihood of investments in new police officers, firefighters and teachers will be less, not more.


The battle over a second bridge is about money – the Moroun family’s money. The expectation is that a second bridge will reduce traffic on the existing Ambassador, thereby costing the Moroun family money. There is a reason that the family interests have spent millions in campaign contributions, lobbying efforts and TV ads in recent years to stop the NITC project – not to mention what sums have been spent by Moroun interests in legal challenges to the project.

Michigan voters may want to ask themselves one question : Why are Moroun family interests spending millions to “protect” the average taxpayer?


Flagrant foul. These ads repeat claims, or advance new variants of old claims, that do not match available documents. The agreement with Canada puts the financial onus on Michigan’s neighbor, not Michigan, for paying the bills, including interest. Since Michigan is not appropriating construction dollars, no dollars are being diverted away from other public uses. Michigan is not increasing its debt load with the NITC project.