MIDLAND, MI — A state representative who has been front-and-center in the fight to defeat Proposal 1, which will appear on ballots statewide May 5, met with a small group of his constituents just days before the election to answer questions on the complicated topic.
State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Larkin Township, led the public event, which was held Thursday, April 30, at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library in Midland. About 40 local residents attended.
Glenn started off the session Thursday by giving constituents a lay of the land on the ballot measure's chances.
"The polls seem to indicate that Proposal 1 is not very popular," he said. "It's one of those situations where the more people find out about it, the less likely they are to support it."
A series of changes tied to Proposal 1 would increase Michigan's sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, exempt fuel from regular sales tax and shift fuel taxes onto wholesalers, at an increased rate.
The proposal, along with the other changes 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.
Glenn pointed to a promise he made while still campaigning for office to not to raise taxes, saying the sales tax increase is a good reason to oppose Proposal 1.
"It will be the largest tax increase in half a century in Michigan if it were to pass," he said. "We pay some of the highest combined taxes on gas and have some of the worst roads in the country."
Those who support the statewide proposal argue that it is the best solution available to address Michigan's crumbling infrastructure, struggling school districts and limited local governments.
In a recently-approved resolution in favor of Proposal 1, members of the Saginaw County Road Commission said the measure would provide "sorely needed revenue to fix roads with funds that politicians can't divert somewhere else -- while also supporting Michigan's long-term future by investing in our public schools and local communities."
Referencing statements made by the proposal's proponents, Glenn said many have argued that voters should vote "yes" because there is no alternative to address problems with Michigan's roads and bridges.
The state representative said those statements make a faulty assumption that the Michigan Legislature will not take any action if Proposal 1 is rejected.
"I think that would be irresponsible," he said.
Glenn instead pointed to the "Bolger plan" three-bill package he reintroduced in March. The reintroduced version of a bill that failed in the last legislative session seeks to dedicate $1.2 billion a year to roads without raising new revenue.
Acknowledging that his bill may not end up being "the alternative," he touted its benefits. He said they range from eliminating any tax increase to a "hold harmless" clause that would roll back the changes if funding for schools or local governments ever dropped year-to-year.
Glenn also noted a large share of revenue raised through the changes made by Proposal 1 would go to other areas of government including schools, local governments and mass transit. He singled out the last funding area, saying the added revenue would "keep the empty buses running in our urban areas."
Saginaw's mass transit system, Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services, recently announced its formal support for Proposal 1.
STARS General Manager Sylvester Payne said the proposal would mean increased funding for mass transit as well as providing money to fix the state's roads and bridges.
"In Saginaw's case, our public transportation riders could possibly see Saturday service return and newer, more fuel-efficient buses provided for them," Payne said.
Many at the forum expressed dissatisfaction with the confusing and complicated nature of Proposal 1.
"I completely agree," Glenn said to one attendee at the event.
The state of Michigan has released a document that shows exactly how much state transportation funding will be coming to each local government entity if the ballot campaign succeeds.
Those supporting Proposal 1 include Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, House Speaker Kevin Cotter, Business Leaders for Michigan, Small Business Association of Michigan, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Education Association and various local government officials and local chambers of commerce.
The Saginaw County Road Commission and Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce also recently announced support for the proposal.
Those opposing the statewide proposal include the National Federation of Independent Business of Michigan, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, Americans for Prosperity of Michigan, Concerned Taxpayers of Michigan and Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, led by Saginaw County businessman Paul Mitchell.
The Saginaw County Republican Party also recently announced they will join other local GOP groups and other organizations across Michigan standing in opposition to the ballot issue.
The statewide Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Saginaw County Democratic Party have taken no position on the proposal.
Glenn was featured as one of two presenters in opposition to Proposal 1 during a voter forum on the ballot issue held in March at Saginaw Valley State University. He joined Mitchell from the "Coalition Against Higher Taxes" group.
He was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives by voters of the 98th District in November 2014.
The 98th House District includes the city of Midland and Larkin, Lincoln, Homer, Midland, Lee and Jerome townships in southern Midland County and the cities of Pinconning and Auburn and Gibson, Mount Forest, Pinconning, Garfield, Fraser, Beaver and Williams townships in western and northern Bay County.