Q&A on Michigan ballot measure to hike taxes for road work
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Voters on Tuesday will decide the fate of a constitutional amendment that would raise Michigan’s sales tax by 1 percentage point to trigger more money for a deteriorating network of highways, roads and bridges.
Here are some questions and answers about the measure:
WHAT IS PROPOSED?
Proposal 1 — put on the ballot by lawmakers — would increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, exempt the tax from fuel, prevent Michigan’s school aid fund from being used to fund universities and give effect to 10 laws that would, among other things, boost fuel taxes with inflation, vehicle registration fees and an income tax credit for lower-wage earners.
WHERE WOULD THE REVENUE GO?
The $1.8 billion collected annually would be split as follows according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan:
— $1.25 billion for roads (fuel/car registration taxes);
— $127 million for public transit (fuel/registration taxes);
— $320 million for education (sales tax);
— $109 million in state revenue-sharing to local governments (sales tax)
HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST TAXPAYERS?
It depends on family incomes, fuel prices and consumer choices. The overall tax increase would average $474, or $40 a month, per household — though the calculation does not factor in that businesses also would pay additional taxes. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates the middle fifth of households making $40,000 to $64,000 a year would pay an extra $267, or $22 a month. Those in the bottom fifth earning less than $20,000 would see a $24 annual tax cut. The top bracket of earners with incomes primarily ranging from $100,000 to $431,000 would pay on average $497 to $697 more annually.
WHAT DO BAD ROADS COST DRIVERS?
Rough roads cost Michigan drivers on average $686 in extra vehicle costs — accelerated vehicle depreciation, repairs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear, according to the national transportation research group TRIP.
HOW MUCH MORE WOULD BE PAID AT THE PUMP?
If gasoline prices stay near current levels, drivers initially would pay 10 cents more a gallon. If they rise to around $3.83 per gallon, the tax would rise by 2 cents. This is because no longer assessing the sales tax on fuel would result in tax savings as prices rise.
WHY VOTE YES?
To improve deteriorating roads. Michigan spends less per capita on highways than all but one other state. The percentage of non-highway roads eligible for federal aid and in poor condition nearly tripled from 15 percent to 43 percent between 2005 and 2013. As people drive less and with more fuel-efficient vehicles, stagnant state and federal fuel tax revenues are not keeping pace with construction and snow-plowing costs. A “yes” vote would also boost funding for K-12 schools and municipalities while restoring a tax break for low-income workers. Proponents say the package is a bipartisan compromise that should be applauded in today’s polarized political climate, and there is no viable way to really fix roads without hurting other priorities like education and public safety if taxes are not increased.
WHY VOTE NO?
To tell legislators to go back to the drawing board. Deals cut in December’s lame-duck session to put the plan to voters made it about more than just fixing roads. Opponents say the Legislature could find money elsewhere in the budget without raising taxes or instead pass a straightforward gas tax increase without asking people to also pay more for clothes and other items. Other criticisms are that the plan would not change outdated formulas disproportionately favoring roads used by fewer people, and hiking the sales tax would be a departure from “user fees” to fund transportation.
Gov. Rick Snyder, legislative leaders, local chambers of commerce, business groups, agriculture interests, road builders, labor unions, police and sheriff organizations, local governments and school organizations.
Conservative groups, Attorney General Bill Schuette, the National Federation of Independent Business. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson are neutral.
WHEN WOULD ROADS BE IMPROVED?
Not all of the $1.25 billion influx would go to roads and bridges immediately. Much of the new tax revenue — $865 million in the first year and $468 million in the second year — would instead be used to pay down borrowing for past highway construction projects. In year three, all of the revenue would go directly to road and bridge projects. Supporters say the phased-in approach would provide time to ramp up construction while reducing interest payments eating into the transportation budget. Critics say all the money should be spent directly immediately if there is such a crisis.
WILL IT PASS?
Unlikely. Just 29 percent of likely voters said they supported the proposal while 61 percent opposed it in an EPIC-MRA poll conducted April 25-Tuesday for the Detroit Free Press and four TV stations.
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