A Bridge primer: Untangling the pothole promise of Proposal 1

First of two parts

David Schell never saw what hit him as he was driving southbound on I-75 in Oakland County on a bitterly cold February afternoon. But he felt it, as broken concrete coming apart flew up into his 2012 Honda Fit with a force “like an IED,” Schell said. “It really felt like a bomb.”

The tires briefly lifted off the road surface, the oil and radiator lights came on immediately and smoke and steam streamed from under the hood. Fighting for control, he was able to wrestle the Honda across two lanes to the shoulder, where it immediately died and never ran again. Killed by concrete, a total loss.

“Looking at the car from the outside, you would never know what was wrong,” Schell said. “But underneath, it bent the frame eight inches and blew three giant holes in the underside of the engine.”

As many as 25 cars were damaged by rough pavement on I-75 that week, leading to lane closures and emergency repairs, as well as thousands in property losses.

Schell's misery is shared across the state as Michigan faces an ironic reality for the capital of the American auto industry: It has some of the worst roads in the nation. According to the most recent analysis by the Transportation Asset Management Council, Michigan’s roads are falling apart, and falling apart fast: In each of the past five years, more federal-aid roads (interstates, state routes and U.S. highways) declined than improved. And in just the past year, about 20,000 lane-miles of roads declined. By comparison, in 2013, 3,600 miles declined. Only 12,000 miles improved last year.

In the transportation council’s recent data, far more Michigan roads are considered in poor or fair condition than good. As for bridges, scores are distinguished by plywood sheets installed on the underside to keep deteriorating concrete from falling on passing cars.

None of this will come as news to any motorist who has to drive in Michigan and, in fact, the condition of the state’s streets, highways and bridges are not in dispute.

How to raise the money to fix them is.

On May 5, voter will cast ballots on Proposal 1, which would raise the state’s sales and use taxes from 6 to 7 percent. The proposal is 189 words long, not counting the “yes” and “no” at the bottom of the ballot. Proponents of Proposal 1 call it a long-term fix for a complicated problem; its detractors portray it as a Christmas tree hung with special-interest goodies.

No one calls it simple.

A tangle of legislation

How complex is it? The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the nonpartisan policy analysis organization, held a recent webinar on the subject, walking through each piece of the proposal and explaining its fiscal impact on the state’s budget and taxpayers. It took 51 minutes, before the Q and A. Similarly, a House Fiscal Agency analysis runs eight pages.

But Jase Bolger, the former House speaker who helped craft the package of 10 separate bills, plus a joint resolution, passed in the 2014 lame-duck session and tie-barred to the successful passage of Proposal 1 in May (meaning they only go into effect if Prop 1 passes), insists it is, at its roots, simple.

“By adopting Proposal 1, voters will insure that all taxes paid at the pump will go to fix the roads, and will protect the funding source for schools and local government,” he said. “That’s it.”

In its simplest terms, that’s correct. But in describing how that happens, Proposal 1 can be a bear to explain. So here goes:

Passage of Proposal 1 would set off something of a legislative Rube Goldberg machine, as the 10 bills move money around and change the way some government functions (primarily schools and municipal revenue sharing) are funded. It’s complex because the existing structures are complex, and the aim is to untie at least part of the knot.

The aim is also to accomplish what lawmakers and state residents claim to want ‒ that all taxes paid on gasoline go to the state’s transportation budget. Currently they do not; a 19 cent-per-gallon tax (15 cents for diesel) does, but the state sales tax is also levied on gasoline, and not much of that money goes to roads at all. Rather, it funds the state school aid fund and municipal revenue sharing. These earmarks, as well as the rate itself, are in the state’s constitution, and raising the sales tax won’t divert any of that money to transportation.

What Proposal 1 does do is remove the sales tax from gasoline and institute a gradually rising (and inflation-adjusting) higher fuel tax to raise more money for road repair and maintenance. The sales/use-tax increase is to make whole schools and municipalities from the losses that taking away gasoline sales would cause. It’s estimated the new fuel tax would have motorists paying about a dime a gallon more at current gasoline prices.

Proposal 1 seeks to make other changes that lawmakers hope will mitigate some of the pain from these tax revisions.

Because sales and gas taxes are considered regressive ‒ that is, that take up a larger share of the income of lower-income residents ‒ the proposal would also raise the Earned Income Tax Credit, claimed by taxpayers in those income brackets. That, it is believed, will offset the impact on those households.

The package also improves and extends warranties for road construction, to make contractors more accountable for the long-term quality of their work. It increases fees charged to heavy truck operators, which account for more wear and tear on roads. It also increases registration fees for those operators. And car owners would no longer have depreciating registration fees, as they do now.

Multiple other widgets would be fiddled with, including tweaking the percentages of the sales/use taxes allocated to schools and municipalities, as well as how the school aid fund can be spent.

A knot untangles, and money comes out

All of this would raise an additional $2.1 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year, but not all of that would go to roads. The House Fiscal Agency report estimates that in the first two years, $1.3 billion would go to paying down debt the state incurred when it financed road repairs following a 1997 attempt to deal with the problem.

Mass transit would get a $27.2 million funding boost in the first year, again because of a constitutional provision that public transit get up to 10 percent of the state’s transportation fund. The state’s Recreation Improvement Account, used to maintain state recreation facilities and trails, would pick up $20 million, also because of earmarks in the transportation fund. The school aid fund would get another $390 million. And the state’s general fund picks up about $300 million.

“What do people want to achieve? That taxes go to roads, that this be a permanent solution, that we protect schools and local police and fire budgets, and that the working poor are protected. Those were the primary issues.” ‒ Jase Bolger, former House speaker, explaining the political negotiations tied to Prop 1.

Is your head spinning yet? Paul Mitchell’s isn’t, but steam is pouring out his ears.

Mitchell, head of the Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, one of several organizations opposed to Proposal 1, sees all of the above as shenanigans.

“In order to fix our roads, we have already $700 million in other spending,” he points out. “What do recreation trails have to do with this?”

He goes on: Schools get a big cash infusion. The revenue sharing with local governments rankles. And what about those debt payments?

“If (the roads) are life-threatening, why is only $400 million being spent on them in the first year?” he asked. “The debt can be paid off anytime.”

The answer, the Citizens Research Council analysis suggests, is simple: Political realities.

“As demonstrated by the failures of previous transportation funding plans, it is difficult to build a coalition of legislators willing to vote to raise taxes,” the CRC wrote. “The package contains provisions aimed at garnering that political support. Schools and local governments are not only prevented from incurring a loss, but gain some revenue under the plan. The state Earned Income Tax Credit is raised to appease those who are worried about the disproportionate impact of the increased sales tax on lower-income households.”

Bolger agrees, essentially. The plan needed bipartisan support, and to do that, “we got into a room with a dry erase board and asked, what do people want to achieve? That taxes go to roads, that this be a permanent solution, that we protect schools and local police and fire budgets, and that the working poor are protected. Those were the primary issues.”

No easy road

The voting public does not seem to agree. A recently released EPIC-MRA poll shows strong opposition to the proposal, which grew from two-thirds to 70 percent once voters actually read the ballot language.

Lawmakers who worked on the proposal acknowledge it is complicated, but say complicated problems rarely have simple solutions.

“One hundred forty-eight lawmakers for two decades have been trying to put together something we all can agree on,” said Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser. “This has bipartisan support. There must be something good about it.”

Not to a voter like Tim Prophit of Grosse Pointe, who said he plans to vote no, in part because he sees Proposal 1 as a failure of the legislative process. “They’ve run out of trust,” Prophit said. “No one can trust them to do their job anymore, and for good reason.”

Bolger called upon voters to educate themselves.

When he talks to groups about Proposal 1 – he is publicly supporting the measure – he said “People are frustrated at first, but they leave understanding. I understand the frustration, but if the public wants to make sure (the money) goes where it’s supposed to go, voting yes on 1 is the way to do that.

“Do we not trust people enough that they are able to look at big issues and understand?”

Prognosticators looking for a gauge of how hard this will be to sell might check in with David Schell, the driver of the destroyed Honda Fit. Even he hasn’t decided yet.

“I want to consult with Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) before making up my mind,” Schell said. “He is a friend of mine. I’ll talk to him soon.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 04/07/2015 - 9:15am
Still no logical explanation on why previous attempts have failed. If we could understand that we could make a better decision in May.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:27am
Years of an intransigent Republican Michigan State Senate that refused to even consider any bills that increased any tax, no matter how minor.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 3:22pm
Roads in MI are poor because the materials used for repair are inferior. That has been the problem for ten or more years.
Cindy M. Noss
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 2:56pm
Roads are bad because Michigan has underinvested in them since the 1960's.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 9:30am
A "no" vote will return the issue to the legislature who will in turn raise the gas tax to 45 cents per gallon of gas; some of which will go to the Federal Government. Our economy is driven by energy prices. Increase the price of gas and consumption will go down which results in a negative impact on Michigan's fragile economy. This in turn negatively impacts consumer confidence. The price of energy (in this instance - gas) has that power over us. A "yes" vote will be $$ that stays in Michigan and contributes to Michigan programs. Investing in our infrastructure has absolute positive effect on our Economy.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 9:47am
William - there is no "plan B" according to legislators, yet you seem to 1) know of this plan 2) know the details and 3) know it will pass?
Fri, 04/10/2015 - 11:00am
Even if the current legislation passes there will be an overall increase in gas costs, which in your assessment is a drain on the economy. No matter if the gas tax was raised by itself or taxes increased across the entire state (sales and gas through proposition 1) there would be a negative effect on the economy, but also positive affects in the longterm.
Fri, 04/24/2015 - 11:41pm
"If the ballot proposal is approved by voters, the gasoline tax rate will increase to 41.7 cents per gallon and the diesel fuel tax rate to 46.4 cents per gallon. These rates will become effective on October 1, 2015 and remain in effect through September 30, 2016. These rates do not remain fixed over time. To address the funding challenges posed by today’s fixed per-gallon motor fuel tax rates, Public Act 468 sets up an annual adjustment process for future rates. Effectively, the proposal calls for an increase in the traditional per-gallon tax rates for gasoline and diesel fuel and indexes these new rates to inflation." This is both embarrassing and disheartening as the roads need to be fixed. It seems this proposal increases both the sales tax and the gas tax. It separates education funding from the gas tax and allocates all of the gas tax to the roads. The sales tax then is allocated to education and other Michigan programs. I am still inclined to vote yes simply because the roads and bridges need additional funding; expanding road and bridge rebuilding/repair will create more jobs and improve our infrastructure.
John Q.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 9:47am
“I want to consult with Sen. Mike Kowall (D-White Lake) before making up my mind,” Schell said. “He is a friend of mine. I’ll talk to him soon.” Kowall is a Republican, not a Democrat as (D-White Lake) implies.
Nancy Derringer
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:07am
Yep, my mistake. Thanks, John. I'll fix pronto.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 9:50am
I'm voting no, just too many political games being played with this ballot proposal with all of the added on things.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 9:56am
How about a new proposal. Raise the sales tax the one percent to 7, but ALL of it goes to roads (no mass transit, trails, etc) and leave all the other existing taxes and allocations as they are. Simple and straightforward and to the point.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 11:18am
Jim, Although your suggestion is simple and appealing, it's unconstitutional.
Big D
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 12:43pm
No it's not. ...the legislature merely had to make this proposal for the ballor rather than the current one. If the Michigan Constitution said "1% of the sales and use tax goes for roads and nothing else--not even trails or transit.", I'll bet there'd be a chance it would pass. Not this one.
Sun, 04/12/2015 - 8:01am
Every idiot has to get their special ideas in there.
connie snow
Fri, 05/01/2015 - 11:19am
I totally agree. These legislative proposals are never written simply. We desperately need our road & bridges fixed & NOW! Raise the sales tax 1 cent and apply it solely to ROADS--SIMPLE AND PRECISE.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:03am
People are foolish to vote yes on this. Read Policy Brief - An Analysis of Prop. 1 by James Hohman of the Mackinac Center dated March 25, 2015. I will not be fooled...
Barry Visel
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:10am
Because of tax credits, tax deductions and tax incentives, Michigan fails to collect an estimated $30 Billion in tax revenue each year. By eliminating just 1/30th of this tangled mess we could raise revenue to fix our roads. Here's one possibility: Eliminate Tax Expenditures to help fund needed government services. As a basis for this argument, please reference the following official State Budget document on Tax Expenditures: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/treasury/ExecutiveBudgetAppendixOnTaxC.... According to the referenced document, Tax Expenditures (credits, deductions and exemptions) cost our State over $30 Billion dollars every year (equivalent to more than 60% of our total state budget). Although tax expenditures provide tax relief to taxpayers, I would argue that if tax rates weren't so high, relief would not be needed. Let me use Sales and Use taxes as my example. According to the referenced document, at our current 6% rate, sales and use taxes provide roughly $8.7 Billion dollars annually in revenue. However, sales and use tax expenditures cost our State over $15 Billion each year (untaxed items such as services). What happens if we eliminate sales and use tax expenditures (but to avoid too much controversy, let's keep exemptions for food and prescriptions...about $1.9 Billion of the total). Adding the revenue we collect to the revenue we don't collect (adjusted for food and scripts) yields roughly $22 Billion total revenue at the 6% rate. Suppose we LOWER THE SALES AND USE TAX RATE TO 3%...that would yield roughly $11 Billion, or $2.3 Billion MORE REVENUE THAN WE COLLECT TODAY...and more than we supposedly need for roads, for example. In other words, spreading the tax burden at a lower rate provides rate relief to taxpayers, lessens an already regressive tax on lower income citizens, gets the government out of picking winners and losers through the tax code, provides needed revenue for government services, and gives our State a positive image with regard to sales and use taxes. IMPORTANT REMINDER: Implementing this strategy still leaves over $15 Billion of tax expenditures yet to be explored! Plenty of revenue opportunities exist in the bloated Tax Expenditure budget without raising taxes. Adding another 1% to the sales tax rate will simply grow tax expenditures even more. Until I'm convinced otherwise, I will be a "no" vote on any state plan to raise taxes. There's plenty of money if we stop giving it away.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:13am
Why is only 400,000,000 of the 2.1 BILLION going towards the roads the first year?!?! I also wonder why so much has to go to the general fund. Seems like too much for special interest thievery.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 11:53am
Jerry, two thirds of the money is going toward debt service for our past spending binges on roads.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 1:31pm
I've lived in Michigan for 65 years. Was there a spending binge while I was in a coma? I never was in a coma. And there was never a spending binge for our roads.
James Jacob
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:21pm
Should proposal one pass the additional $1.2 million in revenue will be phased in over three years towards road spending. in the first year $400 million will be spent toward road construction and $800 million will be used to pay down debt that has been incurred the past several years. It is best if construction spending is phased in it will provide the contracting community the opportunity to make the substantial capital investment necessary to ramp up for a larger road repair program. It is estimated that an additional 15,000 construction jobs will be created in the next three years should proposal one pass requiring hiring and training as well. We did not get into this situation over night and it will take several years to reverse the decline of our road system.
Robert & Ch...
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:14am
Many questions! Why is such a complicated question not being addressed by the legislators? We elect them to work at solving such problems and then to make the tough decisions and live by them. This appears to be a ploy to get the monkey off their back ("you, the public, voted this in") What does the trucking industry pay in this package? Actually, nothing. It is the typical example of the true "trickle down" theory. The consumer is the one getting the bill in the end as it is passed down the line. (Remember when gas spiked and products contained a surcharge?) Was the governor and legislature's concern over the debt owed even considered when giving the business community their recent tax break? An on and on and on ----
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:43am
This is because the goal of most legislators is not to pass anything that might annoy someone, but to stay in office for 8 years and then land a job as a lobbyist.
Chuck Fellows
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:18am
148 legislators attempting to reach a solution. No, more like 148 legislators each with their own agenda. This is not complex or complicated. Infrastructure costs money to build and maintain. Failure to understand that infrastructure is a long term consideration that requires consistency of purpose to achieve a goal is the problem. Roads are in bad shape. Why? Poorly built and not maintained. Why? Policies that micromanage for the short term and very narrow focus. Why? Win- lose short term political considerations demand that kind of behavior. Why? In order to get elected you must cater to the short term, narrow perspective of business interests and associations that have money to contribute to your campaign. Why? Term limits demand frequent large donations from the private sector. Politicians must also fragment the electorate and cater to the extremes that actually vote. Bottom line, the system isn't a system. Individuals using thin thinking to pursue their selfish short term interests.
James Jacob
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:29pm
Chuck you are correct it is almost impossible to get policitians whose focus is on their election in two or four years to address proper road repairs that can last 20-30 years. I think term limits have exacerbated the problem as there is no institutional memory in our legislative body.
Steve Paquette
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:18am
Let the political games continue. What happened to all of the promises that were made the last time our roads fell apart, and under the legislation passed by Granholm? Why don't we launch a criminal investigation of the politicians that made all of these promises, and then prosecute them for stealing our money. Hey voters, wake up, they are getting ready to do it again. Oh, by the way, have you calculated the 7% state sales tax you have to pay for the $55,000 dollar new car...only to drive it on a $.50 cent road you have paid for 70,000 times.
Jay Johnson
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:19am
Proposal 1 is a well-packaged shell game in which the legislature takes potential school and local government revenues in order to fix our roads and then asks us, as voters, to raise the sales tax rate in order to replace the money they just took from the schools and local governments. The state sales tax is already high and harms most those families with the lowest incomes. Our schools certainly need more money, but we can chalk that up to the governor and the legislature using potential school funds to cover other priorities, including tax cuts for Michigan businesses and a new hockey arena in Detroit. There is only one thing that is certain about the proposal -- those who actually use the roads the most will be subsidized by all of us who pay sales taxes. Low-income retirees will not get one cent back from the restored earned income tax credit. Yes there would be a constitutional guarantee that some of the income the increased taxes would raise will be devoted to specific purposes. But, virtually everything else in this “compromise” can be undone by a future legislature, whose members will no longer have to dip into the general fund to repair roads or fund schools. Mark my words, if the composition of our legislature remains unchanged, they will take the “surpluses” produced by the sales tax increase and turn them into more tax breaks for the wealthy.
Tue, 04/14/2015 - 11:25am
We need to raise the income tax on the wealthy by instituting progressive income tax rates. The state of Michigan does not take in enough money to support the necessary expenses to fund infrastructure and education. Young people are leaving in droves and the population is aging. Michigan has so much to offer with its natural beauty. We'll never get good policy in this state as long as Republicans are in power. They're agenda has always favored the wealthy and big business. The rest of us are seeing the results of trickle down economics. We're not only being trickled on but s*#t on as well.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:21am
They aren't using our money responsibly now. Why would we trust them to do that in the future? Also, charging us more for gas, and raising registration fees will never be a big hit with the taxpayers.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:36am
What I find so disingenuous is that the state Legislature is still talking about cutting the state income tax to 3.9%. This income tax cut was proposed a year ago when we had a budget surplus and nobody could think of anything that we needed surplus funds for. It is very clear that what this Legislature wants is for the public to spare the Republican-controlled Legislature the political hit for raising taxes while enabling them to escape the obvious consequences of their tax-cutting ways. Vote NO and at least force them to vote for the tax increase or shoulder responsibility for failing to do anything about our crumbling infrastructure. These crummy Republicans want to have their cake and eat it too -- cut income taxes for businesses and wealthy people and force the poor and the elderly to ante up for essential infrastructure.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:38am
Most states do not hit gasoline purchases with both gas tax and sales tax, Michigan does, giving us one of the highest tax per gallon in the country. Many if not most states do not exclude groceries from sales taxes. Our sales tax system makes no sense in how we tax many purchases of necessities but do not tax many luxuries, granted this is a distinction in the eye of the purchaser, but this in fact is the point. Rather than giving Michigan one of the highest state sales taxes in the country why not lower the rate and extend to almost all transactions? This does a better job of reflecting the modern service based economy, without chasing brick and mortar customers onto the internet and makes room to allow all taxes from gasoline to be directed to the roads rather than to unrelated areas. Proposal one just piles more stupid onto our already stupid sales tax.
James Dixon
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:53am
Major tax breaks for business when the current governor took office with the promise that more jobs would be forthcoming may have been good for them, but--as with other promises--never panned out. As far as local revenue sharing goes, how about just paying local governments what is currently owed? Has anyone considered the impact on retired folks? My Social Security won't go up, but my costs will if this proposal passes. Lansing is completely controlled by one party that is terrified of doing their job by reducing subsidies to business and actually spending money on things that benefit the People of Michigan. When will Michiganders wake up and get legislators into office that will actually improve our state rather that their buddies connected with greedy, non-productive special interest groups?
Burt J. Vincent
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:55am
Bottom line is legislators cannot be trusted to do anything but line their pockets and those of their supporters.Diversion of lottery money to the general fund instead of to schools as promised should be a strong case in point. Shrugging off the missing 12 million during the audit of project main is another. What has evolved is an unaccountable government driven by bribery and the greatest criminal activity on planet earth.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 11:00am
Nobody has yet reported on the amount of gas tax dollars have been siphoned off from the designated road dollars for non-motorized transportation, streetscape projects, brick cross walks, park benches and street lights, $13 million dollar bikepaths from Charlevoix to Bay Harbor (and elsewhere), Dial-a-ride busses, buildings, and benefit packages. Reign these expenditures in and plenty will be made available for the roads and bridges that so desperately need repairs. Lets stop spending on the frills until we meet the basics.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 11:01am
The thing I find most frustrating is that this should have been accomplished through the legislative process, which is what our elected representatives are supposed to do. Unfortunately, too many of our legislators are so wedded conservative thinking, they dare not support anything that might be interpreted as a tax increase even when the need is obvious and justified. Instead they pass the buck and ask the people to decide. Then if Prop 1 fails they can say the people didn't feel the road issue was important enough to vote for higher taxes. If most of the important issues have to be decided by referendum, then I see no need for a full time legislature. Many states accomplish more with a part-time legislature. If we can't throw the bums out, then let's make them part timers. After all, how much time does it really take to do nothing?
Marina Brown
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 11:04am
For years the Republican legislators have only found one line mantra: cut taxes, especially for business. Now the diminishing pie has hit the pot holes. How many of these legislators income is currently lower that it was 4 or 8 years ago? I guess very few. So the idea that cutting taxes will make no painful cuts in services is totally absurd. We are now reaping the fits of this nuts in the legislature. Happy voting in 2016!
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 11:59am
The majority of the money generated under Proposal 1 for the first 2 years is dedicated to repaying bonds from the 1990's, and not to actual road repairs. This entire fiasco is the result of a failure to properly address the problem in the first instance. The gas tax is not popular, and legislators who vote for tax increases are not popular, but the gas tax is a true user fee. Why should part of the tax paid when buying an appliance or clothing be used for roads, or to pay off the accumulated debt from prior road repairs? Just summon some courage and raise the gas tax while gas prices are still relatively low. Do what you were elected to do, and don't shift your job responsibilities to voters.
James Jacob
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:40pm
Joe proposal one does straighten out an inequity as much as you are concerned about why buying an appliance should not support road funding. Today when you purchase a gallon of gas or fuel more than half of the taxes do not go toward roads but in the general fund because we have a sales tax on gas purchases. Proposal one eliminates the sales tax at the pump. Proposal one assures that all the taxes collected at the pump go toward roads. Raising the sales tax to 7% replaces that lost general sales tax revenue.
Thu, 04/30/2015 - 10:58am
As a few others have mentioned, more money is used to pay down previous road debt the first two years because there aren't enough shovel ready jobs to start immediately. Road designing/building is a long process and would be ramped up over the first two years. The number of road construction contractors/workers has been cut over the years because of the lack of funding. Paying down the debt early also has an advantage of freeing up millions in interest payments (substantial on $2 billion).
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 12:41pm
Too many hands out for a windfall because of the emotion over roads. Cuts should have been taken to support roads as it is a safety concern. Our elected officials swear an oath to serve and protect. So much for that.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 1:49pm
Good comments. I think the 70% opposed is understated. No mention of two factors. 1. Lansing just increased sales taxes by $400 million on internet sales (plus 17% if this passes) 2. If has prices go to the past average price the 10 cents becomes huge and pump costs go over $4.00. The legislature already called a lower minimum wage. Adjusted for inflation and productivity the min wage of 1968 should be over $22 today. Take the sales tax off the pump. $690 off, $400 on. Put 20 cents on the gas tax earmarked for roads. Balance expenditures elsewhere. Like not spending on mailings from Lansing telling us or Rep neither supports or opposes this proposal, but then does not explain it.
Roger Royer
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 1:59pm
'gradually rising and inflation adjusting' fuel tax and the consumer will pay an estimated 10 cents more/gallon at current prices (at today's $2.49/gallon that's 25 cents more as there would be no 6% sales tax)...and the mass transit folks get rewarded when they don't contribute in paying the fuel tax anyway. I'm with J Q Public on the need for $700 million additional to the general fund beyond the road allotments.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:17pm
Sen. Mike Kowall is R-White Lake.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:27pm
Where is "Soapy Williams" when you need him...Michigan was tops in excellent smooth roads back then!!! He didn't insist on out-of-site wages in Lansing, he cared about keeping our state the best to work and live in!!! I worked for 20 years as a PMC assisting/serving seniors in their homes preparing them to move to one of the best active Retirement Communities under a "great leadership". Then everything changed under a new name and many of us key people were let go calling it a familiar name to many out there "budget reduction"; I was told so did the service to our seniors! When I applied for unemployment I was approved for 50 weeks however after 22 weeks, if I was still unemployed, to reapply to receive another 22 weeks. After sending Resumes everywhere which included wonderful references from a former boss where I worked, still no jobs coming my way. I followed instructions and called Lansing to reapply for an additional 22 weeks and was rejected saying "there is no more unemployment for me, your done"! I informed this lady I was approved for 50 weeks of unemployment back when I first applied. She said "who told you that, I responded with the name of the gentleman in Lansing, she replied "well there isn't anymore, it was stopped"! I was very upset as we have a mortgage & a needed new auto purchased 3 months before being let go to pay for, so I needed employment. Mr. Snyder I worked 20 years paying tax dollars that included unemployment benefits as well as the wages for your Governor's Office, who we also VOTED FOR! Soapy we miss you and honest government in Michigan!! Mr.Snyder who is worth more $'s than Michigan currently has, should do fine with no paychecks!!!
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:51pm
I am 100% for fixing the roads. I am 100% against Proposal One
Jay Ketover
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:54pm
As long as the truck weights are the highest BY FAR in the nation our roads after repair will quickly go back to being trashed. One or to frost seasons and back to bad. The organizations backing this absurd plan are the ones who benefit most monetarily from it. Road builders, and heavy truckers.
Jay Ketover
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 2:55pm
oops..two frost seasons
Tom Mallett
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 4:51pm
I agree with you Jay. It is plain stupidity to pore millions to billions into road work when the truck weight limits exceed the ability of the roads to last even a moderate length of time.
Wed, 04/08/2015 - 10:34am
This should have been addressed in the proposal. Why would we fix roads without having provisions in place to protect them. If we lowered the weight limits and put some of the heavy "lifting" back to the railroad system, then I may give this proposal more thought. They need to look at Ohio's policy for weight limits, their highways are flawless in most areas.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 3:00pm
I'm voting no primarily because I took a hit when my pension started being taxed and I lost tax credits for public contributions and contributions to soup kitchens. The roads were in bad shape three years ago. Why didn't the governor and legislature set road repair as a priority back then instead of giving the money to businesses? (Because businesses are Snyder's buddies, not roads?) I wouldn't have been nearly as angry about a huge tax increase if the money were going for something that I might see a benefit from. The tax and spend Republicans are killing us financially. The other reason I'm voting no it that I'm not going to enable a dysfunctional legislature. As others have commented, legislators are more concerned with keeping their jobs than making important decisions. If they think an increase in the sales tax is necessary, they should vote for it and live with the consequences. If they don't want to do that they should resign--all of them. My representative, a Democrat, made a plea at a union meeting for people to vote yes and he used the restoration of the EIC as a reason as it helped the poor. I asked what it was doing for the middle class, specifically retirees. He talked on and on, but never gave a simple, straightforward answer to my question, which would have been, "Nothing." I won't be voting for him again either.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 3:49pm
Technology has changed every part of our lives, except when it comes to the roads in Michigan. No one who supports Proposal 1 talks about how all this money will use new technology to make our roads better, they simply support the status quo. It’s all old fashion politics; get more and more of other people’s money. The Governor would rather give MDOT more money and time than hold them accountable, and the Legislature wants to get more money for schools and local budgets than care about the quality of roads we get. The supporters of Proposal 1 can try to scare us into supporting Proposal 1, but we all drive the roads and know the realities. My reality is the more the ads try to scare me into giving more money to the State makes me more skeptical about whether we will get any better value for what is spent. Ms. Derringer frame the issue properly, it is all about politics she could even find anything to write about the roads [construction/repair] or the agencies responsible for the roads.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 5:19pm
Time to move to Florida. Part time legislature (2 months per year, it's up to them whether they work Sundays or not but Sundays count as part of the days), no frost to screw up the roads, reasonable truck weight limits, property tax is a lot less, income tax does not exist, and utilities are dirt cheap.
Tue, 04/07/2015 - 8:00pm
Some people will vote against this proposal because they don't want higher taxes...ever...for anything. Some will vote against it because it looks like a shell game and doesn't start the reapirs quickly enough. Some will vote no because the proposal caters to "special interests." I think this proposal is more about trust in the legislative process and less about the road repairs. ...and because of that, I think it will fail by a large margin.
Wed, 04/08/2015 - 2:43pm
Please stop this madness of taxing all of the citizens of Michigan. Next year big business is going to get an additional tax cut on their personal property tax. I agree with the comments from others, restructure the money we currently have and realize that Michigan also has private citizens that need attention, not just business. I am voting no. I have not spoken to one person that is going to vote for this proposal.
Thu, 04/09/2015 - 5:01pm
I have never voted against road construction nor funding schools. However, I resent that Snyder gave the tax breaks to big money corporations and backers and cut school funding when he was first elected. The big corporations are the same ones that screw up the roads with their big 18 wheelers not the hondas or poor citizens that can not afford a car at all. Do not trust Snyder to fund roads nor schools. He will just figure out a way to give sweet deals to his cronies. We the tax payers will get the smelly end of the stick with him in office. I will vote no!!
Fri, 04/10/2015 - 11:37am
jon, Are we getting better results from the schools, are the roads getting repaired or lasting longer? The ones spending the money seldom if ever seem to change anything, why keep giving money to the same people to get the same disappointing results?
Sandra McClennen
Thu, 04/09/2015 - 8:06pm
If we the citizens do not pass Proposal 1, we will drive on failing and dangerous roads and under failing and dangerous bridges for years. The current legislature will not "do their duty" if this proposal fails. We can complain about the legislature and about the proposal all we want, but there are only two choices -- pass Proposal 1 and have our roads and bridges repaired or let it fail and have increased need for car repairs and possible injuries or deaths due to breaking and falling concrete. I plan to hold my nose and vote YES.
Fri, 04/10/2015 - 8:34am
I will take the consequences of voting against this no matter what they are. I will not hold my nose while voting, this proposal stinks just too much.
Fri, 04/10/2015 - 11:42am
Sandra, Why do you believe things will get better? What will change that makes you think the roads will get better, the schools will be better, the local governments will do better? All proposal 1 does is give them more money to spend with no change in what they do or how they do it or even being held accountable for the spending results.
Sun, 04/12/2015 - 5:53pm
I don't trust the governor, I don't trust the legislature, and mostly I don't trust the ad agencies that are being paid big money to scare us into voting yes. I'm sorry you fell for their spin.
Fri, 04/10/2015 - 11:13am
I suggest that we look at installing toll roads such as other roads, which would put the burden on those that are using the roads
Fri, 04/10/2015 - 8:37pm
Lower the weight limit on trucks AND OPEN THE WEIGH STATIONS! I don't remember the last time I saw a Weigh Station open in Michigan. Don't build a new Welcome Center at the Capitol. Don't spend thousands of dollars on landscaping. Don't spend millions to move Senate offices to another leased space. Enforce the road construction warranties that we are already supposed to have in place that MDOT has not bothered to follow up on. Michigan businesses got big tax breaks, maybe they can give some back or actually create living wage jobs. Stop moving money from one fund to another to make everything look rosy. Quit wasting taxpayer money on the crap that doesn't enhance the lives of the citizens of Michigan.
Sun, 04/12/2015 - 10:25am
I resent that we are having to vote on this due to the inability of this legislature to do their job. And I am frustrated by the complexity of it. However, a NO vote on this proposal seems like it will just embolden the anti-tax crowd. We need to fix the roads! I will be voting YES.
Sat, 04/18/2015 - 11:56pm
The legislature has already slashed the Earned Income Tax Credit, a break for poor working families. What's to keep them from doing it again? The Republican legislature is too cowardly to raise taxes themselves -- it's their responsibility, but they want us to do it. They tell their constituents they won't raise taxes, that government is evil, and that it already gets too much money. They lie to their constituents and then want me to vote to raise my taxes because they are too cowardly to tell the truth. I won't be party to it. If we want to change the constitution, then it should be to have proportional representation -- not a Republican House that has a majority when 400,000 more Michiganders voted for Democrats. Per usual, the Repubs have solutions for problems that don't exist. The state has the power and the responsibility to raise the money to fix our roads. The cowards won't do it, and I will vote NO!
Fri, 04/24/2015 - 11:57am
The majority of problems in Michigan have been caused greatly by the same institutions that have defiled the rest of this country for decades. Democrats and their relentless pursuit of liberal mandates. Let's just give everybody a pension after they work (if you can call it work) for 5 years, no matter how many days they are absent. Continue to hire teachers that do not teach the subject, but instead push their liberal and psychotic views on our children while we are away at work earning money to pay their salaries. Make sure we get more affirmative action employees into the system, especially if their skillset equates to that of a yard squirrel. And let's not forgot those memorable photo moments as we pass 5 guys on a work crew, drinking beer, while following one guy with a loaded shovel spilling asphalt goop into a pothole (that really get's the road fixed!). Yes, the conservatives are very wimpy these days, as opposed to days past, however they don't react with knee-jerk solutions, mired in endless pork-belly earmarks that are tied to special interests with no true benefit to education. Our police in Michigan (both state and local) have never been on my hit parade. In fact, I've never seen them do much in an emergency situation but get confused as to the conditions after showing up too late to have any meaningful effect. They do, however, park in interesting places for their donut binges. Many of them retire early, grab that pension at 60%, then run over to the adjacent fire department and work in an arson (or similar) position for investigation or prevention, which is just a way to grab another pension a few years later. What the heck, the mayors and council members all do it, so why not them? As for prop1, it's a piece of garbage. Just like the garbage that is spewed from many commenters here in this thread that are 100% Clinton supporters and will never change. Tip- They will never fool me because they all say the same thing. They are drones. I will vote "NO" on PROP 1 and send this bogus mess of lies back to the legislature so they can EARN their paychecks. If they refuse, we can track it easily on the government access channels as well as the congressional reports. The ones that vote "present" or just don't show up for debates can easily lose their jobs. Are you, the people, willing to really put the effort into making your elected officials work for a living? Or are you more cowardly and just want to type with your thumbs on Dumb-Phones all day? Bitching about it in a semi-comatose state (as many commenters above must have been) is nothing more than finger-pointing.
Fri, 04/24/2015 - 12:09pm
If the money went to fix all the roads instead of just "special interest" groups I would vote for it. However, last year the road repairs that I saw were unwise and a waste of "limited" funds. A road near me was in excellent condition but it was resurfaced. Another road nearby has had potholes the size of "Texas" for several years and has not been repaired in 3 to 5 years at least. There is a gravel road on which there are five houses. This road was surfaced with asphalt while a road on which hundreds travel daily has not been repaired either. The road commission only seems to fix road for "important people" (or should I say "rich"?) The money given for road and bridge repairs belongs to all of us not "IMPORTANT" people. And transportation, does that mean roads or many other things, too?
Tue, 04/28/2015 - 12:01pm
This really feels to me that we as voters are suffering from our own good intentions. We have a bunch of amateurs in Lansing posing as legislators. Term limits make sure that no one in office has to look into the future past their own 4 or 6 year tenure in office. This makes it too easy to "kick the can down the road" and leave it for the next guy. No culpability for them. This also looks like the fights we have had with the Lottery money over the years. That was a great job by the legislation and the governor to get another 2% increase in the sales tax. I just don't feel like this is the right time for this proposal. Maybe if we weren't paying the bulk of the first year to debt, I might have felt differently.
Wed, 04/29/2015 - 10:03am
NO! NO! NO! we need people who REALLY WORK FOR THIER PAY in LANSING!!!! and are not STUPID!!!
Wed, 04/29/2015 - 1:06pm
What a tangled web we weave. Michigan is hung up in its governing underwear with the inane requirement that proposals like this require amendments to the state constitution. We all learned in Civics 101 a definition of a constitution as an expression of fundamental principles and guidance under which a polity agrees to be governed. But, for whatever reason, Michigan had a better way, and we're left with these kinds of messes. Paying for infrastructure maintenance and repair is a classic example in pubic finance and economics. Consider these features: - the public resource is scarce, i.e, not renewable, - the consumers of the public resource can be uniquely identified, - we have proxies that allow us to reasonably measure individual consumption of the resource, - we can administer user-based fee collections without excessive administrative costs, and - a user fee is considered fair, taking into consideration alternative means of funding and relative regressiveness for the target population. Applying the fundamentals, it becomes abundantly clear: we should be paying for infrastructure maintenance and repair through gas taxes and use-based fees such as, yes Sister Michigander, tolls. Unless, that is, we've baked into our "constitution" a provision banning toll roads. Which leads me to a simple question. Does this proposal accomplish that end?
Thu, 04/30/2015 - 4:20pm
Here is another vote for NO!! Lots of good comments from both sides but none of the yes comments changed my mind. New Hampshire has no sales tax at all and how are they surviving? My income is only Social Sec and as a woman who has worked all of her adult life I cannot afford any additional taxes.
Sat, 05/02/2015 - 8:36am
Our roads are bad, our legislators are worse than our roads, our taxes are already high, and there is no provision for any attempt to see the current wast and inefficiency in the way our money is spent. Governments answer is always the same, give us more and this time we will spend it better. The answer must be no.
Sun, 05/03/2015 - 11:04am
there is a sentence in the article " if the public wants to make sure (the money) goes where it’s supposed to go, voting yes on 1 is the way to do that" Why should we have to pay more taxes so that elected official's make sure funds go where they are supposed to?..Why not an independent audit to see where money is going now? vehicle registration money ..at least $100.00 to $300.00 per vehicle a year..where is it going
Mon, 05/04/2015 - 1:49am
Before you complain about Recreation Trails getting any of these tax dollars, please get informed. Off Road Vehicles such as ATV's use gas. Yet the State Gas Tax does not have a dedicated fund to go back into the sport that people PAY money through State Gas Taxes. In the Recreation Improvement Fund, established over 20 years ago, the RIF gets UNDER 1% of State Gas Tax money. However, in the RIF, the Marine Industry gets 80%, Snowmobiling gets 14%, and "Other" gets the 6 %. Even though ORV's outnumber that of Snowmobiles, the ORV Sport gets 0% in dedicated money from the RIF. So when Mr. Mitchell ignorantly states, "Where does recreation trails need a portion of this fund?" What do you think people put in an ORV? Water? They put in gas, and have been paying into a fund that they get little to none of the money they pay back into trails. You tell me if this is fair. BTW, Recreational Trail users are USER PAID, and do not get ANY general fund money. Know your facts before you make ignorant posts.