The godfather of U.S. Republican anti-tax orthodoxy is joining forces with a Michigan billionaire to stop the construction of a new Canada-U.S. bridge, according to news reports.
Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform and famed for pressuring political candidates into signing promises they would never raise taxes, has joined forces with Matty Moroun, the private owner of the existing Windsor-Detroit bridge, to prevent a new bridge publicly-funded from being built, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Norquist will appear at a press conference with Proposal 6 organizers to urge Michigan voters to block future bridge construction, the paper reports.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed an agreement this past summer that would see the New International Trade Crossing built entirely using Canadian money. The $1 billion bill would be footed by the Canadian government, and recouped through bridge tolls.
But Moroun, who owns the dilapidated Ambassador Bridge, paid more than $4 million to canvassers to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall, which would block the construction of any new international bridge unless it got two-thirds support in Michigan’s legislature.
Proposal 6, as it is known, has been backed by more than $9 million of Moroun family spending on ads, reports the Toledo Blade. The ads reportedly state that the new bridge would end up costing Michigan taxpayers money — despite the deal that would see Canada foot the bill. The ads have been criticized by numerous groups as being misleading.
“The battle over a second bridge is about money – the Moroun family’s money,” the think tank Center for Michigan wrote, as quoted at Central Michigan Life. “The expectation is that a second bridge will reduce traffic on the existing Ambassador, thereby costing the Moroun family money.”
But the ads seem to be working all the same: A recent poll found Michigan residents favour the constitutional amendment by a margin of 47 per cent to 44 per cent.
What is not known is whether the amendment would stop the bridge that was agreed to by Harper and Snyder. Backers of Proposal 6 say the constitutional amendment would be retroactive, covering the agreed-upon bridge. But backers of the bridge say courts won’t uphold that element of the amendment.
Moroun’s reluctance to develop the infrastructure linking Windsor and Detroit came to a head last winter, when a judge jailed the billionaire overnight for failing to complete construction work that would connect the existing Ambassador Bridge with Detroit’s freeway system.
Observers largely agree that the Windsor-Detroit crossing is crucial to the economies of Canada and Michigan. Some 25 per cent of all merchandise trade between the two countries passes over the Ambassador Bridge, worth some $500 million (U.S.) daily.
A study from the Center for Automotive Research said the construction of a new bridge would add 12,000 jobs to Michigan’s economy in the first four years of the project, and 8,000 jobs permanently. The study did not look at jobs on the Canadian side of the border.