SAGINAW NEWS | Voters reject Proposal 1 in Saginaw, Midland counties
SAGINAW, MI — Voters across the state of Michigan on Tuesday, May 5, soundly rejected a proposal that would have increased the state sales tax and raised funding levels for roads, bridges, public schools and local governments.
Saginaw County Road Commission Director Dennis Borchard said he is disappointed, but not surprised, at the results.
"It's unfortunate," Borchard said. "I think we all expected it. But you sort of just hope for a miracle."
About 80 percent of voters statewide had cast ballots against Proposal 1, according to preliminary results.
Support for the ballot issue in Saginaw and Midland counties was no stronger. About 85 percent of voters in both counties voted against Proposal 1, according to unofficial results.
Midland County State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Larkin Township, opposed the Proposal 1 initiative. Glenn said he believes Michigan voters spoke loudly Tuesday in their overwhelming rejection of the ballot issue.
"There could not be a more clear rejection of an attempt to funnel money to other areas other than roads with the most massive tax increase in Michigan in half a century," he said.
But the state lawmaker said he does not see it as an excuse for the Michigan Legislature to do nothing. On the contrary, he said he believes the "no" votes are a mandate for him and his peers to find a different solution.
"I hope that we will move quickly to resolve it and prove that we can resolve it," Glenn said. "I'm anxious to get to it."
The ballot proposal and the other laws it would trigger would have increased Michigan's sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, exempted fuel from regular sales tax and shifted fuel taxes onto wholesalers, at an increased rate.
If it had been enacted, Proposal 1 would have raised $1.25 billion a year for roads once fully implemented and $600 million a year in total for schools, cities, mass transit and the state's general fund.
It was the funding of other areas in particular that many voters took issue with, according to Glenn.
"The number one objection was that it did not address roads exclusively," he said. "They attempted to sell it as a road construction and repair initiative, but it spread out $2 billion to a number of other government functions. It did not give people a clean vote on what they were willing to do to fix our roads and bridges."
Saginaw County residents at the polls Tuesday shared their thoughts on the proposal, which varied from strong support to adamant opposition.
Tom Demski, 61, said he voted "no."
"The idea of fixing the roads is good, but the way they're doing it with the, the way they're allocating the revenues is wrong," Demski said. "They're trying to tie in too many things in one package instead of just allocating the funds for the roads."
Deborah Hastings, 64, arrived at her polling location, the Saginaw Art Museum, 1126 N. Michigan, Tuesday morning to vote "yes" for Proposal 1, though she was somewhat reluctant about her decision.
"It may not be a perfect proposal, but it's better than nothing," Hastings said. "I believe the Legislature showed some cowardice by dumping it in our laps."
Had Proposal 1 been approved by Michigan voters, the changes would have eventually resulted in about $12 million more for county, city and village road budgets in Saginaw County.
Once the new funding structure was fully implemented, the Saginaw County Road Commission alone stood to receive $8.6 million more than the $12.7 million it currently receives from the state.
Borchard said that money would have gone a long way toward helping the road commission address under-maintained roads and bridges in Saginaw County, estimated as an about $450 million problem.
"With the money that we operate on right now, we're strictly in maintenance mode," he said. "Even to provide maintenance now, it's scaled back. What we have is just survival mode."
Though losing the additional revenue is a setback, Borchard said he is hopeful that state lawmakers will follow through on promises that the problem will still be addressed.
"I'm confident that they'll get something done here," he said. "There might even be a better plan that they approve and get through."
Glenn pointed out that he introduced an alternative in March, a reintroduction of the "Bolger plan" that died during the final sessions of the last Michigan Legislature in 2014.
Whether it is his own plan or another alternative, the Midland County lawmaker said he is confident that lawmakers will move quickly to find a different approach to adequately fund road repair and maintenance projects in Michigan.
"I don't think anyone wants to risk the appearance of not moving fast enough," Glenn said.