By Ray Wilbur
Listen Up, Lansing
Today, voters across the state will be asked to increase the sales tax that customers pay at the register, this time as a part of funding package for maintenance of the state’s roads known as Proposal 1.
Voters in Michigan passed a similar ballot question over 15 years ago, in 1994, in order to pay for a school-funding reform package. The two ballot proposals differ greatly though, because of another contrasting detail, aside from what the money was being used for. In 1994, the ballot didn’t really raise taxes, according to Lansing public relations executive John Truscott.
Truscott said the 1994 proposal, known as Proposal A, came after lawmakers reduced property taxes and voted to replace the lost revenue with an income tax increase. Proposal A in 1994 gave voters the ability to decide if they wanted to replace the income tax increase, with an increase in sales tax.
That is not the case in this year’s proposal to raise taxes for a roads package. The current proposal would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, and also includes changes to the fuel tax, which are expected to add a few cents for every gallon of gas, Truscott said.
George Swift, a Lansing resident said he doesn’t know how he will vote on the proposal because he said that kind of tax increase could have negative effects on thousands of families, but the money seems to be necessary for the state and its roads.
Other Lansing residents are more desperate to see the proposal fail, as they don’t think their family can handle the increase in state sales tax.
“I already can’t pay for toys and all that, how should I if they keep raising our taxes?” Lansing resident Tanisha Sanders said.
Bill Ballenger, an analyst for Inside Michigan Politics said even if residents vote no in May though, nothing happens, and the state will be right where it was before.
“It really is something that makes people irritated because even if residents vote no, nothing goes into effect, everything for the state stays the same,” Ballenger said.
“Essentially, the state hasn’t given voters a choice,” he added.
Prop 1 doesn’t just pay for roads in Michigan though, it includes $1.2 million for roads, plus new money for schools, public transit, community colleges, and tax relief for low and middle-income families.
“I think the money is needed, but we shouldn’t be the ones footing the bill,” Lansing resident Victor Marquez said.
Marquez’s sentiments were echoed by many other Lansing residents, who think it shouldn’t be a burden for residents in Michigan to keep having to pay what they say are continually higher taxes.
Other residents see the proposal as a sign that people need to get more involved in local politics.
“I think we have to look at how our government and lawmakers are deciding these things, and people have to engage those lawmakers, in order to change anything,” Lansing resident Thomas Maxwell said.