Voters say no to Proposal 1

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published May 5, 2015

Michigan roads are a disaster. That’s no surprise, as residents in C & G Newspapers’ coverage area have voiced their concerns about the dilapidated roads and growing potholes.

Voters were asked to decide on a proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution, increasing the sales/use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. And on May 5, 80 percent of voters turned down Proposal 1, 1,405,716 votes to 349,813 votes, according to the state of Michigan’s unofficial election results.

One complaint of residents across the state, including Mike Pirog, of St. Clair Shores, was how complicated Proposal 1 was written.

"There is too much extra stuff in there," he said before casting his vote at the VFW Bruce Post 1146. "Too much added on to it."

With only a handful of counties reporting, state Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, said in an emailed statement that the taxpayers sent a loud and clear message by rejecting Proposal 1.

“As far as I am concerned, five months were just wasted. We in the state Legislature now need to move in the most aggressive fashion to free up funds badly needed for road repair. First and foremost, we need to prioritize spending and make necessary cuts so we can free up the money we need to fix our roads. Everything is fair game to go on the table; there will be no sacred cows,” Brandenburg said in the emailed statement.

Brandenburg added that funding could be found by rewriting the state’s chief funding mechanism for road repair if “the legislators in rural areas are willing to give something significant in return,” by restructuring weight laws and by repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage laws.

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said in a press conference that while the voters did send “a clear message,” the public wants the roads fixed, but not by having to pay more “than their fair share to get the job done.”

“Time and time again, this Legislature and the governor have forced middle class and working families to pay more while corporations pay less,” Greimel said, adding that families can no longer be responsible for the “heavy lifting.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, agreed with Greimel and stressed that fixing the roads is going to involve keeping schools, and police and fire departments off the “chopping block” to solve the problem, and the future solution cannot be a “Band-Aid solution.”

Corporations need to pay their fair share, Greimel and Ananich stressed.

In addition to increasing the sales/use tax, Proposal 1 would have increased the gas/diesel fuel tax to adjust for inflation; increased vehicle registration fees; and eliminated the sales/use tax on gas and diesel fuel. While increasing the sales tax would have generated money for the roads, an additional $300 million would have been allocated to the School Aid Fund.

In 2010, Michigan was ranked 50th per capita in state and local expenditures on road works, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the last time Michigan’s gas tax was increased was in 1997. The Legislature did not have a plan B if the proposal failed.

Gov. Rick Snyder released a statement on Facebook before all the counties had reported and said that making Michigan’s infrastructure safer is still a “top priority.”

“While voters didn’t support this particular proposal, we know they want action taken to maintain and improve our roads and bridges,” Snyder said. “The ‘relentless’ part of relentless positive action means that we start anew to find a comprehensive, long-term solution to this problem.

“Doing nothing isn’t an option as the costs are too great. Michiganders need to be able to get behind the wheel and not worry about dodging potholes or seeing plywood to catch crumbling concrete under overpasses.”

Snyder said he will continue to work with the Legislature to find a solution for safer roads.

Staff Writers Terry Oparka and Kristyne Demske contributed to this report.