Monday, May 04, 2015

Michigan's Proposal 1

Michigan does need to do something about our poor roads. But I lean against Proposal 1.

I lean against it because instead of being just a road-funding proposal, it bribes local governments and teacher unions with a completely unrelated increase (to 7%) in our sales and use taxes.

And commercials for the proposal tout construction guarantees as if contracting entities can't already to that--and as if that won't increase road project costs.

Nor does that guarantee provision appear to be universally required.

Resolving funding shortfalls has bedeviled our state legislature for a long time. But I hate solutions that rely on bribing people on unrelated issues and claims that sound good but don't require this particular legislation--and which won't necessarily help us out anyway.

Not that this method is unique. But it might not have used enough tactical finesse to pass despite buying off key interest groups. Those pesky voters who must approve the sales and use tax rate, which is in the state constitution, must say "yes."

And that's the problem. This proposal could fail because if it does not pass, Proposal 1 keeps the status quo in place and voters often have a "better the Devil we know" attitude toward complicated proposals. So the next effort could offer voters two choices--neither of which is the status quo.

That's how our property tax and school funding problems that bedeviled the legislature were resolved way back in 1994 with Proposal A--which included an increase in the sales and use taxes from 4% to 6%.

Too many times, voters rejected solutions on the theory that it was better to retain the hated system in the hope that an obviously better solution would be proposed next time. So we eventually had Proposal A.

And now we have Proposal 1.

As a spring election, only the most motivated will vote. I don't know whether the bribed constituencies get out the vote more than those who don't want a tax increase will vote.

Here's the House Fiscal Agency description.

Here's the longer and more recent Senate Fiscal Agency analysis.

Always go to the source, people. In my experience, they do very good work.

That's kind of fun. In my past incarnation, I couldn't comment on state issues!

Although not that fun. This seems more like work than blogging!

UPDATE: The proposal went down big:

The unofficial vote tally from SOS [NOTE: Secretary of State], not counting Lake County: 80 percent "no" to just 20 percent "yes." Only 349,509 votes for the measure compared to 1,403,772 against it.

Those numbers point to a failure of historic magnitude.

Gongwer News Service reports that the lowest recorded voter support for a proposed amendment to the 1963 state constitution had been 21.22 percent, a mark set on a school funding and property tax measure in 1980.

The bribery wasn't enough to overcome the flaws. Gongwer, FYI, is pretty much the news bible for those involved in state legislative issues.