By Asha Dawsey
Listen Up, Lansing
Proposal 1 has generated plenty of controversy throughout the state of Michigan before elections in May 2015 and Lansing has its foot in the conversation as well.
The question reads, “A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government,” according to the official ballot question release.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said, “I’m not terribly enthused about it because I’m not a fan of the sales tax.”
Said Bernero: “It’s not that I disagree with where the money would go. The money would go to roads, school, and local government. Those are all good. I disagree with the vehicle. Its one of the worst taxes.”
According to the Proposal 1 website, the problem for local Michigan communities is they have struggled for years to pay for essential services like police, fire, ambulances, schools, roads and jails. Communities also battle for annual legislative appropriations in Lansing to fund other services, including roads and libraries, through revenue-sharing. The results show up on the streets.
“Bad, potholes. I mean I’ve never any other place like Lansing with roads,” said Lansing City Hall Administrative Secretary Amanda Spilling, when describing the roads in Lansing.
According to a January 2014 report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, the average Lansing-area driver loses $305 annually due to driving on rough roads.
“They’re bad and there getting worse quickly,” said Cheryl Barnes, Lansing resident.
According to the proposal website, Proposal 1 creates a stable, reliable funding system for communities in Michigan to pay for police, fire, ambulances, jails, senior services, schools, libraries, roads and other community services.
“I thought that we were already paying money for the roads,” said Cindy Hart, Lansing resident, “So its just like I don’t know, what did they do with the money from the taxes that was supposed to go to the roads?”
Another potential voter shared a similar concern.
“How do we know that they won’t take that money and put it somewhere else and 15 years from now they need more money for roads?” said Jeff Shelton, a Lansing resident.
Bernero said he’d prefer an income tax paid out of worker salaries, rather than a sales tax assessed on all purchases.
“I’m a Democrat, I’m a fan of the income tax,” said Bernero. “I think the income tax makes more sense as an overall as a taxation vehicle because the more you make the more you pay. The more you can afford the more you pay.”
Hart said she won’t support the proposal.
“I’m opposed, only because (Michigan Gov. Rick) Snyder cut all those taxes for the corporations to put it towards roads,” said Hart.
Spilling said she believes the plan is fair.
“Actually we all contributed to thee conditions of the roads. It makes sense for us to put out the cost cause I think ultimately the cost is worth it,” said Spilling.
Bernero sees no other real options.
When there’s a question on the ballot you’re sort of stuck with it, said Bernero. “Now I have to make a decision because that’s all there is.”
“Our roads are terrible and of course people look to me a mayor to fix the roads with no money,” said Bernero. “It’s very problematic so I’ll probably vote for it.”