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Truth Squad calls foul on ‘birthday tax’ claim on Snyder road proposal

MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: “Happy Birthday From Governor Snyder”

Who: Joel Charles

Featured Material: Web video

Truth Squad Call: Foul

To background sounds of the Beatles' “Birthday,” Gov. Rick Snyder is portrayed in a clownish birthday hat, noisemaker in mouth and birthday cake in front of him. What follows is an attack on Snyder's plan to hike vehicle registration fees as part of a broader scheme to raise an additional $1.2 billion in annual transportation revenue.

The funds would be aimed at refurbishing a transportation grid that has steadily deteriorated over the past decade as overall transportation revenues declined. A license plate reading “BDAY TAX” is shown atop a pile of $100 bills. Images of a motorcycle, SUV and snowmobile flash on the screen with the words, “The cost to drive is going up.” That is followed by the headline, “An 80 Percent Tax Increase From Governor Snyder,” with the words “License Fees” flashing above and below.

The sponsor of the video is listed as Joel Charles, with the ad linked as a “Favorite video” on the Michigan Democratic Party YouTube page. A party spokeswoman disavowed any knowledge of who produced or funded the ad or any connection to its content. While the identity of Joel Charles is not immediately clear, the Lansing-based MIRS news service reports that the ad will soon be on TV and “the start of what is expected to be an aggressive campaign against Snyder's road funding plan.”

Questionable statement: “The cost to drive is going up.”

In a bid to build funding for Michigan's roads and bridges, Snyder proposes hiking registration fees for large trucks and trailers and for cars and light trucks, raising about $508 million. Today’s $123 vehicle registration fee on a new $25,000 car would increase by about $80. In addition, he proposes replacing the 19-cent-per-gallon tax on gas and 15-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel with a single 33-cent-per-gallon tax on both, to be levied at the wholesale level That would raise $728 million.

Snyder's vehicle registration fee proposal also includes a local option under which counties could apply a 0.18% tax to the list price of a vehicle to raise $280 million more for local roads or public transportation.

Questionable statement: “An 80 percent Tax Increase from Governor Snyder.”

The video provides no documentation for the assertion that license fees would be hiked by 80 percent under Snyder's proposal. Snyder's plan would in fact raise registration fees for large trucks and trailers by 25 percent and for cars and light trucks by about 60 percent.

Legislation filed by Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, would raise an estimated $1.6 billion in annual additional transportation revenue. Under his proposal, registration fees on light trucks and cars would rise by about 80 percent. It would raise the registration fee on a $25,000 vehicle from $123 to $221. His proposal does not include a local option to raise registration fees.

Overall impression: The Web video focuses on a controversial linchpin to Snyder's transportation funding plan, a sharp increase in vehicle registration fees. Snyder's defends the gas tax and registration fee hikes as “a user fee. If you use the roads more, you should pay more. If you use the roads less, you should pay less. There's a correlation there, and I think people understand that." But Snyder's registration fee increase amounts to about 60 percent, not the 80 percent claimed in the video.

Foul or no foul: Foul. The governor’s proposal on registration fees would work out to a 60 percent increase, not an 80 percent one as claimed in the video.

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