By SILU GUO
Capital News Service
LANSING – It would be tougher for lawmakers to raise or alter the mix of state taxes if Michigan joins a minority of other states in requiring approved by a legislative “supermajority” to approve.
A November ballot issue would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature or a statewide vote to approve additional taxes.
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said the “supermajority” proposal will force a higher level of consensus among lawmakers before raising taxes. He is honorary chair of the Michigan Alliance for Prosperity, a coalition that supports Proposal 5.
“They need to make decisions to raise taxes after they have done everything else possible first,” Bouchard said. “Raising taxes should be the last option.”
Jack Clark, a political science professor at Western Michigan State University, said the proposal invites a discussion about the role government should play.
Clark noted that the state constitution requires a balance budget.
“People who are behind the proposal are interested in limiting the ability of government to do things,” he said. “They think it is a benefit for them. They don’t want a strong government.
“But whether this is good or bad is still an open question,” he said.
Roger Martin represents Defend Michigan Democracy, a coalition opposed to the proposal.
“Once things change, they change in every level of government and government has to change with them,” Martin said.
“Government needs to have a balanced and comprehensive proposal,” he said. “Not just tax cuts, not just one single problem.”
Among Defend Michigan Democracy members are the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Traverse City Chamber of Commerce, Jackson City Council and Saline City Council. Gov. Rick Snyder also opposes it.
The National Federation of Independent Business is among the supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment.
Its state director, Charles Owens, said, “Now the government has changed the tax system to get rid of the business tax. They have created a much better tax system and we want it to stay that way.”
Owens said the constitutional amendment would help small and independent business owners. “It is not fair for business owners to pay double taxes,” he said. “But as soon as the government’s budget gets stuck, they will again ask for it.
“The proposal will make it more difficult for them to get there,” he said.
Bouchard said he believes the “wise majority” will agree with him that it should be harder to raise taxes. “We cannot just let the government get money out of our hard-working workers’ pocket,” he said.
However, in Martin’s view, the proposal is unrealistic. “It won’t make the change harder, it will make it impossible.”
“That’s not true,” Bouchard countered, “Colorado has had a similar requirement since 2005.”
And when Michigan legalized casino gambling, 75 percent of the voters said yes, he said.
“People thought it was impossible,” Bouchard said. “But I said we can do it.”
Martin said the “supermajority” proposal could lead to more poverty and has already causing low employment rates in Mississippi and Nevada.
Western Michigan’s Clark said, “Right now one thing about the debate is whether or not we can trust the government.
“People who oppose this proposal may say ‘hey wait a moment, this is not bad,’ but it may not be what it seems to be regarding its impact to the state.”
By SILU GUO