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Michigan anti-property-tax group seeks to get on 2024 state ballot

Karla Wagner talking in a hallway
Karla Wagner of AxMITax wants to end Michigan property taxes. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • AxMITax plans to circulate petitions for 2024 ballot proposal to eliminate all property taxes in Michigan
  • Organizers estimate plan would save Michigan property owners $14 billion a year
  • Plan would cut $2.5 billion for schools and end taxes that support libraries, museums and zoos, among other things

LANSING — A group seeking to eliminate all property taxes in Michigan plans to begin circulating petitions in January to get the measure on the state ballot despite failure to secure pre-approval by the state, an organizer said Monday. 

The AxMITax ballot committee aims to put its potential ballot proposal before voters in the November 2024 election, spokesperson Karla Wagner told Bridge Michigan, estimating the constitutional amendment would save taxpayers a collective $14 billion a year.


But it would do so at the expense of Michigan schools — which are supported by a statewide property tax that generated more than $2.5 billion for schools last year — and other services funded by local governments, such as libraries, museums and zoos, Wagner acknowledged. 

"My mom and dad don't go to the zoo, they don't go to the museum, they don't go to the library, and yet they have to pay for those services — it's on their property tax bills," Wagner said. "One of them is going to push them over the edge and they're going to be forced to sell their home."


The Board of State Canvassers on Monday deadlocked on a proposed 100-word summary for the AxeMITax petition, effectively blocking the optional approval that groups often seek from the board to avoid future legal challenges.

After spending months trying to work with the bipartisan board, organizers plan to move forward without the pre-approval and circulate petitions between January 1 and June 30, Wagner said. 

They’ll have to collect more than 446,000 signatures to make the 2024 ballot.

Mary Ellen Gurewitz, a Democrat who chairs the Board of State Canvassers, voted against the proposed summary on Monday, citing the fact the group had not yet submitted the actual petition form it intends to circulate. 

The summary also failed to make clear how "utterly damaging" the proposal would be to the state and local governments, who rely on property taxes to pay for local services, Gurewitz said, arguing the plan would effectively "defund" Michigan schools. 

The proposal would prohibit any state, county or municipal property taxes and require a 2/3 vote by a local government body or the Legislature to raise any other taxes in the future.

It would make up some local funding by directing a greater share of revenue from state income taxes, sales taxes and so-called "sin" taxes to cities, townships and counties — but only for "essential government and infrastructure services." 

It would also eliminate the State Education Tax, which generated more than $2.5 billion for the School Aid Fund last year, and prohibit local property tax millages for school building improvements, libraries, museums and zoos. 

Those cuts were not identified in the 100-word petition summary written by Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater —- but they should have been, argued Mark Brewer, an attorney for an opposition group called Michiganders for the Commonwealth. 

"The summary is fatally defective because it does not disclose the effects of the proposal," Brewer, a former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, told canvassers in a written challenge ahead of Monday's meeting. 

Michigan will spend about $19.4 billion in School Aid Fund revenue on K-12 districts this year, according to the state budget. While spending has increased, annual revenues have grown slower than the rate of inflation, according to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency.  

Wagner, who is leading the AxMITax ballot committee, has not shied away from the fact that the proposal would cut funding for schools and libraries, in particular. 


"Let them fail," Wagner said this fall at the Michigan GOP's biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. "We're getting poor education, and we're getting libraries with sick books in them.”

But speaking with reporters Monday, Wagner argued that eliminating property taxes would stimulate the economy and boost other tax revenues the state could use to fund schools. 

"I don't think we need to replace that $2.5 billion,” she said. 

The effort has at least some bipartisan backing: Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Waters, a Democrat and former state legislator, has offered public support for the AxMITax proposal.

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