Will we be better off if Proposal 1 passes? Former treasurer says yes

I’m voting for Proposal 1 on May 5. I hope you are too.

Let me tell you why.

As a former Michigan treasurer who has served five governors, both Democrats and Republicans, I know well the reasons for a balanced budget, for a budget that establishes the right priorities, attracts new business and assures public safety for all.

As Michigan’s treasurer for 10 years, I was responsible for the collection of almost all state taxes.

I have helped to design and promote lower taxes across the state when they were necessary. I have also made the arguments for additional taxes when they were necessary for the good of all.

Asking our citizens for additional taxes is not an easy task. The state’s history, indeed the nation’s, is marked with the names of those who have lost their jobs for speaking out in favor of increased taxes. Michigan voters have a history of standing against higher taxes.

Since 1972, Michigan voters have on several occasions turned down major sales, property and income tax proposals. Only in March 1994 did voters agree to Proposal A’s property tax reform. The vote was 69 percent to 31 percent.

Michigan voters value their state, its four-season vitality and its national role. They hold dear their families’ opportunities to seek financial security, high-quality education and to live in thriving communities of prosperity and safety.

Our roads are a sign of the state’s strength. Yet there are signs everywhere that Michigan’s roads are crumbling. It shouldn’t take another shredded tire, unpatched pothole or another death to lead us to action.

Let me reach back to wisdom from a previous president: Will Michigan be better off if Proposal 1 passes on May 5? That is the fundamental issue. To repeat, the fundamental question for voters is: Will Michigan be better off if Proposal 1 passes?

I’ve come to a very clear understanding that our state needs to rise up from recession, recognize its needs and move ahead to restore necessary infrastructure. Michigan is moving in the right direction. The most recent unemployment rate for Michigan is 5.6 percent, only a bit higher than the federal unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.

I’ve come to a very clear understanding that Michigan’s growing economy should continue to move forward. I’ve come to a very clear conclusion that Proposal 1 should pass.

Will we be better off as a state if Proposal 1 passes? My answer is absolutely yes.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Fri, 04/24/2015 - 12:56pm
My answer is an absolutely vote no.
Clark bowman
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 4:44pm
May I say, Mr Roberts has not been any champion for reduced taxes. He served at the pleasure of the governor at that time. He would carry the direction given to him. Same in case. He tits the line as expected. And he also might need a job again and will follow the lead. I have much respect for Snyder but his record on personal taxes is awefull.
John Q. Public
Fri, 04/24/2015 - 7:22pm
We had the money--at least a good chunk of it. Our elected officials variously decided to spend it on, and/or give tax cuts to, those who vote not via the ballot, but by the campaign contribution. Now we are being asked to make it up. We've fallen for this more than once; I hope we've learned a thing or two over the last two decades. The fruit of the failed policies is rotten, and now we are being asked to absolve those responsible for the bitter harvest by bailing them out. If we do, they'll claim--with a straight face--that their policies were successful. I bought a ticket to that movie multiple times--I'm not voluntarily sitting through it again.
Fri, 04/24/2015 - 11:21pm
There are already so many reasons to vote no I would have preferred to read something substantive in support of Prop 1 just to become more informed. But this is piece is so vague I had to double check its author as I thought Snyder wrote it.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 5:42pm
Wow!!!! Everybody please check out the web cite Kimberly has listed. Amazing and sickening at the same time. I never imagined it was THAT bad! Wow!!!
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:27am
This study is skewed by the fact that wealthier people typically own much of their property through LLCs and other partnership vehicles, but given the purpose of the study that issue wouldn't be brought up.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 12:34am
Doug Roberts was a good state treasurer because he watched over the tax payers dollars and didn't accept plans that were half baked, thrown together and spent less than half the money on projects they were supposed to fund. If this tax increase were to pass, only 14% ($275 million) would go to fix the roads in the first year. In the second year, only 33% ($675 million) would go to road repairs. That's $4 billion in taxes in the first two years to fix the roads and bridges but less than 25% actually getting spent where it's supposed to go. I think the voters are going to send the legislature back to the drawing board on this one.
John S Porter
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 2:03am
Under-funding infrastructure goes back to before the Engler Administration. I remember well how Engler said no new gas tax because there was a "hole in the bucket". That meant that diversions of gas tax money was diminishing the efficacy of the tax. So when someone says "They" screwed up this infrastructure maintenance, it is safe to say that They are no longer in office. The infrastructure funding problem goes back to before 30 years ago. What is true is that "We" haven't been able to recover. The elected ones haven't been able to agree on anything for a long time. The current Governor and Legislature have finally cooperated enough to put this proposal forward. We will probably argue about whose fault this mess is for another 30 years. Will we drive on bad roads or good roads while this discussion takes place?
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 2:14am
Another 'big picture' writer who shows not interest in getting value for other people's money. Mr. Roberts suggest Michigan needs the infastructure, road money to raise us out of recession while saying we are at 5.6% unemployement. My recollecton is that during his career it was considered near 'full employement.' Is it we are still in recession and need the road work jobs to lift us out or we near 'full employment' and the road work jobs will draw in people from other state to do the work? It seems Mr. Roberts is still locked into the government thinking of his early career and doesn't seem to grasp the world has change and isn't listening to those old tired political rationales. I would offer if there was confidence that government agencies were more concerned about getting value for other people's money rather then simply getting more of that money to spend people would be much more willing to give their money to the government to spend. Ah, but that is never a point of interest for the proponents. They have yet to voice any concern about the public trust and wanting to get it back.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 8:10am
This proposal reeks. there is so much added on to cover past mistakes and misuse of our tax dollars as it is that I actually think the authors of this proposal think we the voters are stupid. If the current administration hadn't cut business taxes by 2 billion a few years ago and had applied the increase they put on the seniors to the roads and debt for previous road fixes, we wouldn't be having these discussions. There is no public trust of our elected officials, and therefore this proposal will fail. Vote no.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 8:32am
If we need the money for roads so desperately, let the legislature vote to increase our taxes, or tax the rich. Don't expect us to do it.
Charles Richards
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 3:17pm
Why is it preferable for the legislature to raise our taxes than us doing it ourselves? I can understand why Donna wants to raise taxes on the wealthy; most people are perfectly willing to have somebody else pay their share of the bar tab.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 5:28pm
They wrote this, not us. Our choice is only yes or no. Our "representatives" have literally an infinite number of ways to raise revenues and taxes. Not one, like they have shamelessly given us. We are given one choice because they are too cowardly to raise taxes themselves. The tea baggers and Republicans have been denying the need for more taxes for at least seven years. That was their rationale for slashing taxes to big business and major corporations. Now the Big Lie is revealed and they are too cowardly to admit it or do something about it, so they shift the responsibility on us. Did they put up the slashing of business taxes to a popular vote? No. Reducing the pitiful tax breaks for poor working families? No. Are they afraid the Koch brothers will cut off their campaign funds if they support new taxes? Yes. Let them rot in hell.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 9:01am
I refuse to reward stupidity and incompetence and voting yes would do precisely that. We know to vote the GOP out and get some adults in to fix this mess.
sam melvin
Sat, 05/02/2015 - 9:52am
in 1990 the road & bridge budget was $ 328 million in 2001 the road & bridge budget was (under gov.Engler RAISE to $ 1.54 BILLION a 368% increase ...see DETROIT NEWS april 8. 2001 SHOW US THE MONEY
Jay Johnson
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 9:16am
Governor Snyder created this mess. As his first order of business, he approved massive business tax cuts and then raised taxes on seniors and the working poor. Rather than raise fuel taxes as our roads continue to deteriorate, Governor Snyder has asked the voters to raise the sales tax from 6% to 7%. We, the voters, are being asked, yet again, to increase the most regressive of all of our taxes in order to fill revenue shortfalls created by more than twenty years’ of tax-cutting governmental malfeasance. Mark my words, if we give this money to the governor and the legislature, they will use the new "surplus" to justify yet another tax cut for their campaign contributors.
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 12:54pm
I still want to know why the legislators trust the Voters to make decisions to raise taxes but not on wolf hunts and emergency managers? I also want to know why our legislators for the most part refuse to tell us how they will vote? Do they have no clue or spine? What scares me is what happens when this proposal fails as it surely will. Either the roads go from bad to worse or massive cuts which will hurt everyone, especially schools and towns, will go towards fixing some of the roads and bridges. So vote: damned if we do and damned if we don't.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 8:18pm
And watch the money for schools and transportation, and the reinstatement of rebates for poor working families disappear in the next lame duck session. The Transportation Bill -- to repair federal roads and bridges -- is still being held up in Washington (after 5 years) by the same political party asking us to fix the state's roads by raising our own taxes. These right wingers are out to prove that government is the problem by making government the problem.
Lola Johnson
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 1:26pm
I've had enough. We are not as stupid as this legislature thinks we are. We are supposed to be so grateful that both parties are finally working together. We are supposed to be so scared that we will give in to the bullying and threats of disaster. No. No. No. Even more important than this vote next week is the one coming up in 2016. We must throw the bums out!! I'm not opposed to taxes, nor to tax increases. I'm opposed to ALWAYS taxing the little guy and giving the wealthy everything they demand.
Ron Grzesiak
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 2:07pm
Vote No on May 5. Hopefully, on May 6 the legislature will finally do there job and increase the gas tax to fund road repair.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 3:21pm
And the change would be permanent. Going on forever because it is a change to the Constitution. Do we really want that?
David Smydra
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 4:19pm
Doug was the epitome of a dedicated state policy maker who always worked for the best interests of the people -- irrespective of partisanship. After spending considerable time and research looking into the pros/cons of Proposal 1, I join Doug in his recommendation. In fact as an absentee voter, I have already cast my "Yes" vote.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 5:05pm
The right wing has habitually lied to its constituents about having plenty of money and no need for taxes. The Republicans have had complete control of Lansing for 5 years and have given huge tax breaks to business and corporations, while slashing funds for education and local governments, and raising taxes on the working poor. Now the cowards want us to do the dirty work for them. They want it both ways -- they don't have to vote for badly needed taxes and they won't have to admit to their constituents that they are sociopathic liars. This is the scam of all scams -- shifting their responsibility onto the citizens. The constitution will change on regressive sales taxes, but what's to keep the clowns in Lansing from re-instituting the tax increases on poor working families, and slashing education and transportation funds. Nothing. VOTE NO!!!
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:48am
I agree that we need to vote 'no' but get off your 'it's all the GOP's fault' high horse. This is not a new problem. Granholm did nothing to fix it for 8 years. This is a "politician' problem. Far too many of them -- Dems and GOP alike -- are only in politics for the money. .
David L Richards
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 6:03pm
Gus, the problem is the Republican state legislature. In the Granholm years, the auto industry and the state economy were in decline and no money was available for many of the things we need. We now have roads with five more years of deterioration, and an economy that would permit us to improve our roads, at least if we hadn't given substantial sums of money away in the form of tax cuts to favored groups. I give Snyder credit for making roads a priority, but the current (Republican) state legislature is the barrier to fixing the roads, unless we vote to approve a highly flawed Prop 1.
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 11:44pm
Granholm was thwarted at every turn by a Republican legislature. Let me add that the state has been so gerrymandered by the Republicans that 400,000 more people voted for Democratic candidates than Republicans, yet the Repubs hold solid majorities in both houses. How could that be? A Democratic vote does not count. You are either in a district that's solidly Republican, so it doesn't matter whether you vote. Or you are in a district that's packed 90% Democratic already so it doesn't matter whether you vote. If you subtract 500,000 Democratic votes from the state totals, you get about the right ratio of Democrats to Republicans currently representing us in the two state houses. In other words, Democrats are 3/5ths of a person.
Sun, 04/26/2015 - 8:44pm
After a thorough study of the issues regarding this proposal, I too have cast my absentee vote which was NO. We already have more than enough taxes enacted to pay for the monies claimed to be needed. How about instead of raising the taxes on all the populace we remove some of the exemptions that have been granted over the years and spread the current burden a little more evenly. Every year since 1979 the Governor has submitted to the legislature via the Appropriations Committees a document titled Executive Budget Appendix on Tax Credits,Deductions, and Exemptions for each fiscal year which contains these exemptions and their costs to the Michigan Treasury. The express purpose of this document is so that the legislature can examine these exemptions and decide if they need to be changed. Neither of my current legislators appear to have even seen much less considered the contents of this document despite the fact that my representative sits on the House Appropriations Committee and my Senator was a past member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. While some of these exemptions may serve a useful purpose and it is true that some of them are counted but simply not collectible I'm certain that there may be some that no longer serve their intended purpose. Without raising prices by changing taxes on food or health care nor removing exemptions for our lower income citizens, I was easily able to come up with 1.3 billions dollars of extra revenue out of the over 30 billion that is outlined in this document. This would require the legislature to act to remove some exemptions but no new taxes or increases in tax rates would be needed. Vote NO on Proposal 1 and inform your legislators that you would like them to do their jobs.
A. Friend
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 12:10am
John, while I agree with much of what you write about how the GOP has taken from local govt. and schools and not taken responsibility for increasing the gas tax but passed it off to voters while reducing state revenue thru tax breaks for business and corporations, I believe we cannot pass up this chance to get the badly needed additional revenue for roads. The gas tax has not been increased since 1997. How can we expect enough revenue for roads when the gas tax stays the same, the cost of fixing roads go up every year and cars and trucks get better gas mileage and use less fuel to travel the same miles? In addition, pwhen we make a temporary fix because we don't have enough revenue to make the correct fix, we soon have to make an even more expensive fix later. That is wasting money. While th current tax proposal may not be the greatest way to solve the problem, it does give us the additional revenue that we so badly need and it does give some help to low income people buy providing an increased tax credit to help offset higher fuel costs. If the legislature does not have the guts to raise the taxes, then we must do it. I don't like to pay higher taxes but feel I must. If we don't pass this propsal, we will be shooting ourselves in the foot because once again we will force road agencies to forgo the proper fix and cause an even more expensive fix later. In the mean time more roads drop into poor condition. Do you think new business will want to locate in a state with such poor roads? What about existing business? Will they stay here? Our state depends on tourism. Who is going to want to vacation in a state with such bad roads? Do you want to pay more to fix the damage to your car because of all of the pot holes or would you rather put that money toward the gas tax and help keep business and tourists coming to our state? I am voting for proposal 1 to get us out of the mess that the legislature has ignored for years. I am begging everyone else to also vote "Yes".
John Q. Public
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 8:58pm
Don't beg; it's unbecoming. And stick to chemistry, Arthur--tax policy is not your forte.
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 7:45am
I'm willing to pay for damage caused by potholes for the immediate future and will not be scared into voting for this in some doomsday scenario. The legislature needs to get their act together and I'm not willing to give them this kind of easy out in getting away from their responsibilities in showing some kind of leadership on this issue. When the businesses and tourists stop coming then they can see its time to get serious. Vote no.
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:27am
I'm glad the township I live in has raised taxes to pay for better roads. But that was after work was done to clean up our county road commission so that we now get a lot more roadwork for the money. At the state level, nothing like that has been done. Also, nothing has been said about what taxes will be cut to pay for this increase. The state spends billions on corporate welfare; if we cut that first -- all of it--and if it's not enough to pay for better roads, then we'll talk about the possibility of an increase in taxes. But it would be irresponsible and unsustainable to vote for higher taxes at this point.
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:45am
Our state's tax systems, governmental structures, and penal/prison system (just for starters) are all done in ways that are the most expensive, least comprehensible and least efficient possible and are in bad need of restructuring. Huge cost savings (available revenue) could be gained but no one even brings things up other than more taxes from Michigan's already heavily taxed citizens.
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 2:22pm
I will vote NO . Michigan is already one of the highest taxed states and are insurance costs are the highest in the US by a huge margin. Give us a reason to believe things will change cause I'm not convinced.
R Marlin Sumner
Mon, 04/27/2015 - 6:07pm
Was this supposed to be a help for roads? How in the world did the proposal include schools, cities, colleges, low income people? Show me a proposal for Roads, Roads, Roads and nothing else.
Tue, 04/28/2015 - 7:25am
How pathetic is this proposal? We have Carl Levin who is a former Washington politician doing TV commercials for this proposal rather than Lansing politicians because they are so afraid of tarnishing their image by supporting it (even Snyder is running away from this). Levin being retired has nothing to lose by agreeing to do the commercials. I shake my head when I see this on TV.
Wed, 04/29/2015 - 3:45pm
***, It isn't pathetic it is desperation. It is a classic example of how the politicians and others clinging to the politics of history act to avoid becoming part of the politics of today, of those who vote.
Carol C.
Thu, 04/30/2015 - 2:19pm
On Cynthia Canty's April 27 program "Stateside" on Michigan Radio, the head of Michigan's non-partisan Citizens' Research Council said: “Why couldn’t the Legislature just do the job they were elected to do instead of passing responsibility off to the voters? The short answer -- and you’re not going to like this -- is that it is not their fault. It’s ours. We haven’t given our legislators the chance to do their jobs because we’ve cauterized a deep-seeded distrust into statutes and amendments to the state constitution." I suggest you read his perspective at http://michiganradio.org/post/our-legislators-cant-fix-roads-because-we-...
Fri, 05/01/2015 - 1:24pm
Carol, Where you think this is about the roads, I see this about public trust of the Governor, Legislators, and government agencies. Where you seem to believe that Legislators can do their jobs, I see it as the Legislators aren't trying to understand the voters and what their expectations are. Having been placed in a few situations where trust the key issue before the desired results were achieveable I learn you first have to ask and listen what people's concerns are before you try to change things. I have yet to hear any of the Proposal 1 proponents ask what the voters concerns are and then listen to what they are saying. Mr. Lupher's article seemed to be more about defending the Legislators then being interested about why there was so much in 'earmarked' spending. He has an answer for an issue that doesn't seem to matter to the voters.
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 4:27pm
Will we be better off as a state if Proposal 1 passes? What do you mean by "we"?
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 5:16pm
1.I find it very odd that the word "PUBLIC" was eliminated when they put this proposal together. Could/would any of the SAF now go to private CHARTER schools and Parochial schools? All the fliers I have seen say "education not public education"! Nor have I heard any one say "Public education they say education" and folks there is a difference! I assure you removal of the word "PUBLIC' was no accident! The same way they have twisted our current constitutional law to fund universities with the SAF they will do to fund "OTHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS"1 2. The ballot proposal is asking us to change the constitutional language to read: "Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career/technical education, and prohibit use for 4-year colleges/universities". The key word here is "Expand". Which would mean more institutions would receive funding from the SAF which could mean less to "Public" K-12 funding. One area of education that is desperately in need of funding is early childhood education! Why wasn't this added to the "EXPANDED" list? 3. why hasn't the public been informed of the house and senate bills that have already passed and would go into effect if this proposal is passed? 4. Do not trust the fact that this proposal is supported by house and senate bills that can be change at any time to satisfy the needs of those in power in Lansing! 5. Lastly is the public is being fooled when they vote on this proposal because they believe they are voting on constitutional language they are reading on the ballot when instead they are voting YES on legislation that has already passed in Lansing!