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When the State Board of Canvassers voted to approve the ballot language for Proposition 1, Wes Nakagiri was there to voice his concerns on behalf of Michigan Taxpayers. Below is the Detroit Free Press' account of the hearing. 

Prop 1 ballot language for road funds approved

LANSING – When voters go to the polls on May 5 to consider a proposal to raise billions of dollars to fix Michigan's roads, they'll encounter a 100-word, boiled down version of a complex series of bills passed in the wee hours of the last day of the legislative session in December.

The challenge for the state Board of Canvassers Thursday was to sift through the seven different proposals submitted by supporters and opponents of the proposal to come up with language that included all the facets of the road proposal. Those elements include, a constitutional amendment raising the state sales tax from 6% to 7% and the laws that are dependent on that passage, including the distribution of money through a complicated formula to roads, schools, local units of government, transit and low-income Michiganders.

 

Here's what voters will see on the May 5 ballot:

A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO INCREASE THE SALES/USE TAX FROM 6% TO 7%. 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 TAX AND VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEES.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

Eliminate sales / use taxes on gasoline / diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.

Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).

Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career / technical education, and prohibit use for 4-year colleges / universities.

Give effect to laws, including those that: Increase sales / use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment; Increase gasoline / diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation, increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes; Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects; Increase earned income tax credit.

Should this proposal be adopted? Yes or No.

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A yes vote on the proposal will raise the state sales tax. A no vote will turn that proposed increase down.

Opponents of the proposal wanted the language tweaked to better reflect that the first thing the amendment does is raise the sales tax from 6% to 7%. The first two bullet points in the proposed language talks about the elimination of the sales tax on gasoline and making sure that revenue that goes to the School Aid Fund now is replaced.

"It needs to provide clear explanation that a big portion of these dollars - 40% - doesn't even go to fix roads," said Scott Hagerstrom, spokesman for Citizens Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, one of the main groups opposing the roads package.

"It much more than just replaces that revenue," said Patrick Anderson, of the Anderson Economic Group, who has been critical of the proposal because it may result in drivers not being able to deduct registration fees on their federal income taxes.

Wes Nakagiri, a tea party activist from Hartland, said he wanted the language to include how much the increase would cost the average taxpayer.

"That's the bottom line," he said.

And two people suggested that the issue wasn't even eligible for the ballot because of the way it was passed by the Legislature.

"This was a disgrace," said John Lauve, of Holly. "What a mess."

But the Board of Canvassers didn't act on that suggestion and voted to designate the issue as Proposal 1 on the ballot. And by a 3-1 vote, they accepted the language proposed by the Secretary of State's director of elections Chris Thomas. Board member Norm Shinkle voted against the language, saying he wanted it amended to give more prominence to the fact that the proposal raised the sales tax from 6% to 7%.

"This is a very complex proposal based on interplay of changing the constitution and the laws of Michigan," he said.

Shinkle said no matter how many words describe the proposal, he doesn't think it's going to pass on May 5.

"I've been talking to a lot of people on the Republican side I don't see it even close," he said. "There's no sunset. As a former legislator, if you do a tax increase where's the sunset. I think we can fix the roads without this type of permanent tax increase."

The Safe Roads Yes Committee, the coalition supporting the proposal, submitted proposed language for the ballot, along with six critics of the of the proposal: the Coalition Against Higher Taxes; Patrick Anderson, a Lansing economic analyst; former state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills; former Oakland County Commissioner Sue Ann Douglas, a Rochester Republican; John Milne of Saginaw and John LaPietra, a Green Party candidate for Attorney General in 2014.

Those seven proposals were submitted to Thomas, who came up with a final draft of language submitted to the Board of Canvassers for final approval.

The challenge was coming up with no more than 100 words to describe the ballot proposal, that would raise the state sales tax from 6% to 7% and distribute the money to roads, transit, schools, low-income Michiganders and local governments.

Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter @michpoligal.

By Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau10:26 a.m. EST February 27, 2015


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