Proposal 1 is a messy, but necessary solution

Published 8:00 am Thursday, April 23, 2015

Make no mistake about it — the choice that Lansing is presenting to Michigan voters on next month is not an easy one to make — nor is it very pretty.

Born out of a manufactured deadline that has become commonplace in Washington politics, Proposal 1’s suggested means of funding repairs to Michigan’s pummeled, battered and frankly neglected roadways are complex and undeniably messy.

But they are also frankly the best solution we have at the moment, which is why we are encouraging readers to vote yes on Proposal 1 on May 5.

If passed by voters, the ballot proposal will enact 10 different pieces of legislation into law that would effectively generate more than a $1 billion worth of funding for repairs to Michigan’s ailing infrastructure, which most residents would see as a not only as desirable but as necessary action for lawmakers to finally take.

The proposal also offers a number of long overdue changes to the way that Michigan handles its roadways, mainly that it overhauls the gasoline tax in a number of crucial ways. For one, the legislation would change the tax from a flat rate to one that fluctuates with the price of gas, ensuring that, as gas prices rise, so too will the amount of tax revenue it generates. It also removes sales tax from the price so that money generated from gasoline sales goes directly to roadways.

The controversy surrounding the proposed legislation, though, is the fact that the proposal calls for voters to approve a 1 percent increase in the sales tax, from 6 percent to 7 percent. While an additional tax burden is not the most appealing idea for anyone, the increased revenue this change creates is also necessary, as it mainly goes toward our state’s most important resources — our education system.

If passed, Lansing is projecting that schools would receive $300 million in funding and local governments will receive $95 million from the increased sales tax.

By eliminating sales tax on gas, additional revenue is needed to make up for the losses to school districts and local governments. While it may be frustrating to tax payers, the reformed tax system will provide a more stable source of revenue for these essential institutions versus continuing to rely a chunk from the often volatile fluctuations of gas sales.

Another common argument against Proposal 1 has nothing to do with the contents of the bill itself, but with lawmakers in Lansing, who many feel are “passing off” this decision to voters instead of coming up with another plan. Don’t make any mistake about it: we too believe that this proposal is in many ways indicative of the problems with how major decisions are made in Lansing.

We are also pragmatic about the situation we’re currently in. Despite our ideological opposition, the bottom line is that our roadways need fixing, and they need it now. They have barely weathered the two of the worst winters the Midwest has ever experienced, and we doubt they will fare any better when the cold and snow arrive again this year.

We choose to vote for the solution in front of us now versus continuing to navigate our crumbling roads and bridges while waiting for legislators to come up with something else.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.