Finding new funding for road repair has been a priority of the Snyder administration for years. However, the tax-averse Republican Legislature has refused to raise the revenue needed to for additional spending on roads. In last December's Lame Duck legislative session a compromise was struck to fund road repair with a 1 percent increase in the state's sales tax. To gain support of House and Senate Democrats the proposal also included additional funding for schools and municipalities:
The proposal, along with the other laws that it would trigger, is projected to eventually generate $1.25 billion a year for roads and bridges, according to the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency. It would also raise $200 million for the School Aid Fund and $111 million for local governments, when fully implemented. [MLive.com, March 3, 2015.]
However, because increasing the state's sales tax requires an amendment to the Michigan Constitution, the Legislature does not have the ability to implement the plan alone. Rather, it will require a statewide vote. This is the question which will be put to voters May 5. Read more about Proposal 1 here.
Critics of the proposal make two arguments. First, some critics argue against any tax increases. This position is typically associated with the right end of the political spectrum and is advanced by groups which supported the 2013 federal government shutdown. Second, some critics argue that while additional revenue is necessary to fund road repair, municipalities and schools, the sales tax is a regressive tax which is disproportionately bore by working class Americans.
The position of Okemos Parents for Schools is that additional revenue is needed for K-12 education. This view is shared by Michigan residents who pegged K-12 education as a top priority in recent statewide survey.
|From the Center for Michigan Citizens Agenda for Public Money.|
While we are sympathetic to both arguments offered by Proposal 1 critics, we feel the need for additional K-12 funding outweighs both.
Additionally, an alternative to Proposal 1 has surfaced which would be devastating to K-12 education.
During the December debate over Proposal 1, former Speaker of the House Jase Bolger floated a plan to raise the $1.2 billion for roads without increasing any taxes. Of course, this meant the money had to come out of existing state spending. That plan is now back and being floated as an alternative if Proposal 1 fails.
The legislation would phase out sales tax collections on motor fuel over several years but increase fuel taxes by a similar amount. Doing so would mean more money for crumbling roads but reduce potential growth in sales tax revenue for the School Aid Fund and local governments. [MLive.com, March 11, 2015.]
We would have recommended a "yes" vote on Proposal 1 without this destructive alternative, but with the reemergence of this plan, passing Proposal 1 becomes critical for public education in Michigan.