How East Lansing ballot proposal protects against double taxation

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Lisa Roy at her desk

Christine Kanerva

Lisa Roy: “I do not live in the city of East Lansing, I commute, and I do not pay city taxes where I currently live. I’ve been on campus for 32 years, I do not believe that people who don’t live in East Lansing should be paying East Lansing tax.”

East Lansing residents who don’t work in East Lansing are concerned about the proposed income tax that will be on the Nov. 7 ballot. One concern is whether they will get taxed by the city where they live and again if the city where they work has an income tax.

The East Lansing income tax proposal says that residents who work in East Lansing or elsewhere will have to pay a 1 percent income tax if proposal A is approved, while nonresidents who work in the city will have to pay a 0.5 percent income tax.

However, the City of Lansing already has a 0.5 percent income tax for nonresidents. Would that mean that East Lansing residents will pay a total of 1.5 percent in city income taxes; one-percent to East Lansing and another 0.5 percent to Lansing?

The East Lansing income tax proposal is intended to increase city revenue to maintain aging infrastructure, keep jobs and maintain services. If proposal A is passed, proposal B will allow the city to receive a property tax reduction.

East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier provides the answer:
“What happens is, is that instead of paying Lansing taxes, they just pay East Lansing taxes,” said Beier. “So nobody’s taxes would go up if they already work in a city that has an income tax.”

The 1 percent would be broken in half between the two cities. East Lansing would get 0.5 percent and Lansing would get 0.5 percent. If you work in a city without an income tax, East Lansing would receive the whole 1 percent amount.

What about nonresidents who work in East Lansing? They would have to pay a 0.5 percent income tax, however, they would not benefit from the property tax reduction. Lisa Roy, a nonresident of East Lansing, is not happy with the income tax proposal.

“I do not live in the city of East Lansing, I commute, and I do not pay city taxes where I currently live. I’ve been on campus for 32 years, I do not believe that people who don’t live in East Lansing should be paying East Lansing tax,” said Roy.

Nonresidents, like Roy, are also ineligible to vote on the tax proposal, causing some to become concerned that their voice on the issue will be unheard.

“I think the biggest effect will be people who work full time at the university… who live in Okemos or Haslett,” said Brian Kalt, resident of East Lansing and professor of law at Michigan State University. “Someone who makes $120,000 a year, that’s 600 bucks… but they’re also not going to be voting on it.”

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