Tax burden Prop 1 would impose too heavy to bear

A number of economists and finance experts have recently published studies ranking states by their total state and local tax burdens. Unfortunately for our economic growth and the wellbeing of working families, Michigan ranks near the bottom of that ranking – 45 of 51 (the studies include the District of Columbia). Our total state and local taxes are 22 percent higher than the national average.

Proposal 1 would add $2 billion to our taxes in Michigan, forever. And why are we being asked to take on this tax hike? Allegedly, to fix our roads.

Our roads clearly need maintenance and repair. I would actively support good policy that actually addresses the condition of the roadways in Michigan. Proposal 1 is not that policy.

Voters have been misled as Proposal 1 supporters attempt to hide the $700 million in Proposal 1 taxes committed to special interests unrelated to transportation by saying the money from Proposal 1 is guaranteed to “roads.” In year 1 only 25 percent of this $2 billion tax bonanza will be devoted to repairing our roads. By year 3 they “promise” that 60 percent of the money will be devoted to transportation – not just our roads. That means that more than $700 million every year will be spent on things that do nothing to fix or improve our roads – again, forever.

Voters are being told, misleadingly, that much of the additional $700 million will protect our teachers and public safety at the local level. Ask a supporter to show you the language, in either the constitutional amendment we will vote on or the 10 separate bills that go into effect if Proposal 1 passes, that guarantees the money goes to the classrooms or for our police and firefighters. The supporter, if you can find one, will stammer and give you a blank stare or lame argument. That is because no part of Proposal 1 provides any such guarantees.

Proposal 1 is the largest tax increase in Michigan in 50 years and we, the voters and taxpayers, are left to trust that future legislatures will use this massive tax increase as they have promised.

Proponents also argue that improved roads are needed for economic growth and job creation. No argument with that – but a massive increase in our taxes will also have a negative effect on economic growth, job creation and the pocketbooks of most citizens.

None of the Proposal 1 supporters in Lansing have explained why even some small amount could not be saved and reprioritized in our state budget to reduce, if not avoid, this tax increase. We are told this is our last, best chance. Tell the Lansing politicians that the voters will tell them when they are out of chances and to focus upon just fixing our roads. Tell the politicians to get serious about respecting our tax dollars and ensuring they are used efficiently. You can send that message by voting no on Proposal 1 on May 5.

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Sun, 05/03/2015 - 8:25am
As a Union member and proud & enthusiastic believer in the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, Paul is (very) right. Vote NO on Tuesday. I already have!
Big D in Cvx
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 8:44am
In addition to the fact that this unaffordable proposed mish-mash of special interest bribes is the handicraft of an impotent legislature in the waning hours of their term (i.e. lame duck), it doesn't do a meaningful job of funding roads any time soon. Since years one and two use most of the road money to repay debt, the lawmakers have plenty of time to choose their best plan B. We should give them that opportunity. Just because they've wasted 6 years supposedly trying already doesn't mean we should just give them an "A" and graduate them. (there's a metaphor for you). (Please don't reply, "But how do you really feel?") Good commentary. and it's Bridge!
laurel e. mason
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 12:28pm
I think lame-duck should be changed to dead-duck in speaking about legislatures and politics. Just a thought.
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 12:37pm
Every year the State of Michigan HIKES fees on every thing . There are way to many departments that could be combined . Take the DNR and the DEQ they are about the same . Merge the two into one and call them the MSPF ( Michigan Special Police Force ). Take away the pensions and other benefits of our elected officials . It is supposed to be a PRIVILEGE to serve the PEOPLE , not a JOB .
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 4:38pm
The DNR and DEQ are not "about the same." For instance, how are regulating fishing seasons (DNR) like regulating oil and gas wells (DEQ)? Jeesh!
Brian J Bridson
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 6:27pm
My view is a bit more nuanced. We need to raise not just $1B but $5B to fix the roads. What we're arguing about is only a fraction of what is really needed. This will not be found in the current budget. Get over it. Either taxes and fees on individuals must be increased, or the massive tax break our Republican legislature and Governor handed to corporations must be repealed. I am incensed that the best the legislature could come up with is to punt the ball to voters and ask us to increase the regressive sales tax on ourselves by amending the state constitution. Really? Legislators: do your constitutionally mandated duty to provide for the roads of the state. Increase taxes and fees or repeal the tax break on businesses. It's as simple as that. We hired you to do this job.
John S
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 7:19pm
Brian, I agree with you that the legislature has NOT DONE its job of coming up with a solution to fix the roads with out making the voters decide for them. They continually take money from other government areas, like K-12 education, to fix other problems and never replenish the education budget. It is sad that they seem to punt on tough decision-making issues. I written my House Representative on a number of occasions and never even get a courtesy reply. It says a lot about representative government.
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 11:47am
By making us vote on the tax increase, it allows them to keep their "pristine" I won't raise taxes record... it's time to clean out the idiots... and I'll start tomorrow with a huge, resounding NO vote!
Robert Kleine
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 10:19am
Mr. Mitchell is wrong about Michigan's tax burden. The state-local tax burden in Michigan is 9.9% of personal income, 33th highest in the nation. The national average is 10.5% of personal income. Michigan has the lowest tax burden among the Great Lakes states. (Minnesota has a tax burden of 11.6% yet they have a stronger economy than Michigan.) We are under investing in infrastructure, local government and education, key drivers of economic growth. The state tax burden has dropped from about 8% in 2000 to 6.4% today. Also, Michigan ranks dead last in spending per capita on roads and bridges. This data is reported by the Federation of State Tax Administrators using U.S. Census Bureau data.
bill fullmer
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 11:41am
Very helpful. Thank you for clarifying.
Hank. Meyer
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 3:42pm
If one reads the Proposal,they are willing to eliminate the 6 percent on gas sales and implement a tax on the wholesale price of gas to pay for road repair why do we need to raise our sales tax ,if it is not going for the roads,I say just do the gas tax swap and be done with it
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 3:57pm
I wonder how many of these people who tell us to vote NO live here and have to ride these roads? I wonder how long it will take for our lazy LEADERS to come up with Plan B? Another 2 years? Something has to be taken away from someone to come up with the cash for the roads, lets get rid of the extra departments we support and the many extra people at the water department who do nothing.
Rick Davenport
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 8:32pm
The current gas tax does not go to fix the roads but to the general fund. If our legistators would quit voting to raid the transportation fund, there would be plenty of money to fix the roads. Ask yourselves what the current gas tax is spent on and who votes to spend it in that fashion. Once you have the answers it's hard to support this proposal.
Tue, 05/05/2015 - 8:08am
"I wonder how many of these people who tell us to vote NO live here and have to ride these roads?" I do it every day and can feel how bad they are and I'm still casting my NO vote today. The proposal is deeply flawed.