Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Thank you, people of Michigan. And I hope the lawmakers are paying attention.

There was a proposal on our ballot yesterday that was pretty solidly struck down. Proposal 1 was for a constitutional amendment, and the official wording on the ballot was:

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 [ ]
NO [ ]
(Original Mlive article reporting the wording)

Have you ever seen anything so convoluted? Basically, they're saying that they'll take the money that's supposed to be dedicated to the schools anyways, and actually spend it on schools. And they'll increase the state sales tax. Oh, and they'll also increase vehicle registration fees! But they promise they'll use the money for road repair! And just to be nice, they'll give back the earned income tax credit that was taken away in 2011, and set it to match the Federal credit, like it used to. And something complicated about other gas taxes. Not exactly sure how that worked. And oh yeah, if the companies repairing the roads don't do a good job, it will be covered under a warranty, and they'll have to fix it for free! Because it's part of the CONSTITUTION people!

And it's all rolled into one proposal, with a constitutional amendment! Because the last major constitutional amendment we passed was such a great idea! That one is still kinda up in the air.

Lawmakers who were on TV espousing their support of the proposal even acknowledged it was flawed. One actually said that it's not perfect, but we need to fix our roads. Hmmm... Last time I heard the "It's not perfect, but it's what we've got." we ended up with the Affordable Care Act. Which, mind you, has many good points. But it is also so labrynthine that it's hard to understand parts, and while many benefit from it, many are also in a worse situation now because of it.

Do I like our roads? No. They suck. Big time. Would I like them to be repaired? Absolutely. Should the state figure out a way to do it that doesn't completely screw me over? Damn straight. The first MLive article that I linked to puts it pretty well. Essentially, we have informed our lawmakers that guess what, we want you to work. Do what you were elected to do. Forget your summer break, forget passing things along half-assed. Sit down, sort it out, make cuts where they need to be made, and put things back on track.

I know that several districts had other proposals on their ballots this spring, but for ours (and most others from what I've seen), this was the only one. I'm actually curious how much was spent, total, on bringing this forward. Between ad costs, time spent drafting the bill, printing costs, and the overall extra election costs, what did this cost the state? And if all that money had been diverted to beginning road repairs, how far would it have gone?

One of the things that seriously amused me in that first article is that there are other possible funding options out there, but that they aren't very "politically viable". Well guess what? This one wasn't either.