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Local residents, officials weigh in on Proposal 1

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 6, 2015

 A Utica resident votes at Flickinger Elementary School in Utica during the May 5 election.

A Utica resident votes at Flickinger Elementary School in Utica during the May 5 election.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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Michigan voters crushed Proposal 1 with 80 percent of voters against it and 20 percent for it. In Macomb County, the percentages were even more lopsided — 87.2 percent against it and 12.8 percent for it.

Most voters said they did not want to see taxes increase again and that, if that had to happen, they wanted their money to go strictly toward fixing roads. Although about a quarter of registered voters in Macomb County turned out for the rainy May 5 special election, they made their voices heard.

The ballot language stated that the proposal was an amendment to the Michigan Constitution to increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas and vehicle registration fees.

“It’s just not a very clear proposal,” said Ed Ungerman, Shelby Township. “Too much money is going too many other places. If it’s going to the roads, it needs to be for the roads and not for everything else.”

Shelby Township resident Craig Koch said he felt legislators were diverting funds to schools and other institutions to appease government unions.

“They put too many other items in there,” Koch said. “They didn’t tell us the first year, they’ll just pay down the debt for the existing debts.”

Theresa Ivone, of Shelby Township, said 7 percent was too much to pay for sales tax and that legislators should use money they have instead of taking from the “poor people who are trying to put food on the table.”

Gayle Slivik, of Utica, said she voted no because there were other items in the proposal than just roads.

Shelby Township resident Pam Alward voted yes.

“We need the roads fixed and the rest of the stuff that they earmarked, like education, (is important),” Alward said. “I wish they didn’t have to do it with a vote, but it’s political.”

State Sen. Jack Brandenburg said in a May 5 statement that the taxpayers sent a clear message with their rejection of Proposal 1 — no new taxes — and that he felt five months were wasted on Proposal 1.

“We in the state Legislature now need to move in the most aggressive fashion to free up funds badly needed for road repair,” Brandenburg wrote. “First and foremost, we need to prioritize spending and make the necessary cuts so we can free up the money we need to fix our roads.”

He called for a rewrite of Public Act 51, the state’s chief funding mechanism for road repair, because he said it favored rural areas at the expense of urban areas. In order to do so, he said Legislature would have to give legislators in rural areas something significant in return. He also suggested increasing fees for the trucking industry.

“Another way we can find funding is through repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage laws (that would free up $224 million per year),” he wrote. “Why should taxpayers have to pay union-scale wages on government-sponsored construction programs?”

Jim Santilli, executive director of the Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan, issued a statement May 5 that lamented the failure of Proposal 1 and challenged legislators who opposed the proposal to develop and present a feasible solution to Gov. Rick Snyder during 2015.

“Proposal 1 put safety and accessibility first, without taking away funds needed to educate our children and support essential local government services,” Santilli wrote. “While I believe the majority of the voters agree that Michigan’s roads and bridges urgently need attention, many citizens seemed to be confused about the tax changes.”

On May 6, state Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, introduced House Bill 4560, which would use the interest from the $18 billion Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association fund to finance road and bridge repairs without increasing taxes.

The fund’s revenue comes from annual $186-per-vehicle insurance charges and its purpose is to reimburse auto insurance companies for Personal Injury Protection benefits paid in excess of $530,000.

“If we use just the interest this fund is earning, which is currently almost $1 billion a year, we can fix our roads and prevent further numbers of catastrophic accidents in Michigan,” Lucido said in a statement. “This bill gives us a way to finance road repairs from an already existing fund instead of going through line items in the budget or raising taxes to create a new revenue source for road funding.”

Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot said 28 percent of Shelby Township voters turned out for the election — a vast improvement from the 19 percent who voted in the primary election in August. About 88 percent cast ballots against the proposal, and 12 percent cast ballots for it.

“I think people just came out to express their frustration with Lansing,” Grot said. “Obviously, the voters sent a message to Lansing for our state legislators to get back to work and stop kicking the can down the road, be responsible and do your job.”

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