Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan tax facts, part 4: What do your taxes pay for in Michigan?

Editor’s note: To help voters make sense of ubiquitous political arguments in this fall’s elections in Michigan, Bridge’s 10-part special report tells it like it is on Michigan taxing and spending issues. Today we present parts three and four. Read each five-minute primer published so far:

Part 1: Are Michigan taxes too high, too low, or just right?
Part 2: Who wants what in the long war over Michigan taxes?
Part 3: Who pays the taxes in Michigan?

Whether you think the size of government is too big, too small or just right, it surrounds you every day, in ways obvious and less visible. Did you pass a police car, school bus, ambulance, road repair crew or public park on the way to work today? That’s government. So is the road you drove on. So are thousands of other items large and small, from public schools, to parking meter maids, to food stamps and health care for those living in poverty, to food inspectors in restaurants, and so on.

When voters go to the polls in November, near the top of the ticket they’ll vote for governor, state representative, and state senator. Those state officials collectively negotiate a new state budget every year. More than any single annual document, the state budget most concretely frames the priorities of the state’s elected leaders.

The table below provides a quick snapshot of where state taxes are spent.

Recession took bite of colleges, cities

Over a decade in which Michigan endured a crippling recession and lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, state spending fell by nearly 11 percent, in inflation-adjusted dollars. The state's colleges and municipalities took the biggest hits.

2004Percent of total, 20042014Percent of total, 2014% change, 2004 to 2014
Colleges & Universities$2,384,560,0007.4%$1,669,525,0005.8%-30.0%
K-12 Education$14,022,210,00043.6%$11,681,208,00040.8%-16.7%
General government$1,956,300,0006.1%$2,234,926,0007.8%14.2%
Health/welfare/social services$5,892,910,00018.3%$6,064,634,00021.2%2.9%
Public safety/prisons/courts$2,867,100,0008.9%$2,831,338,0009.9%-1.2%
Local government revenue sharing$1,617,280,0005.0%$1,133,858,0004.0%-29.9%
Natural resources, environment$738,060,0002.3%$693,408,0002.4%-6.0%
Transportation$2,674,620,0008.3%$2,346,329,0008.2%-12.3%
Total $32,153,040,000 $28,655,226,000 -10.9%

We're not just a news organization, we're also your neighbors

We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please support our nonprofit newsroom?

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now