FLINT TWP. — Genesee County Road Commissioner John Daly spoke at the township board meeting Monday night in favor of voting for state Proposal 1. But several dissenters in attendance also spoke during public comment.
Passage of the May 5 ballot proposal would raise the state sales tax to seven percent and change the Michigan’s Constitution to reallocate funding for road construction and maintenance, schools and local government.
Daly said it’s the first piece of solid legislation to come along in 17 years that addresses road construction. He also said he’d prefer that the proposed legislation strictly addressed road funding without all the add-ons but it is what it is.
If passed, the proposal is said to eventually generate about $1.2 billion in revenues for roads generated by fuel sales tax.
Fuel sales tax now used to fund K-12 schools would be replaced by additional funds raised from the sales tax increase. More than $300 million in new revenues would be generated for schools and local governments, according to a fact sheet Daly handed out. Low and moderate income taxpayers would also get some tax relief.
“I am not here to tell you that you should vote for it; that was a summary,” Daly said but encouraged people to read what is being written about the proposal to educate themselves about what they are voting for or against.
“My principle concern is in the 17 years since we passed the last fuel tax increase, this is the furthest we have gotten to solving revenue problems for Michigan bridges and roads,’’ he said.
Alternative proposals are vague and have not made headway while state road conditions are deteriorating at a faster rate each year, he said.
“Whatever we do, we need to fix this problem permanently,” he said. John Milne of Saginaw disagreed. He argued most of the points on the fact sheet Daly handed out are inaccurate or incomplete.
Voters are not being told the whole truth in the 100-word ballot language, he said.
Milne said he made the same argument to the state Board of Canvassers in Lansing, prior to approval of the ballot language, that all the complicated elements of Proposal 1 cannot be summed up in 100 words.
Proposal 1 does not guarantee that all fuel taxes will go to transportation, he said. Rather it simply puts a tax on fuel that can be changed “next week or next year.” he said.
Proposal 1 also does not guarantee all school–aid funding will go to K-12 and community colleges but can also be spent on things like teacher retirement funds, he said.
Milne made several points in the three minutes he was allotted to speak including that under Proposal 1, there would actually be less money for roads next fiscal year unless the legislature revises the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Act. He cited a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Proposal 1 available online by the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. Gerald Roberts, a township resident, also spoke against Proposal 1. He said he is on a fixed income and reeled off a long list of taxes he already is paying. He also spoke against increased vehicle registration fees that would result if Proposal 1 passes. Harold Pauly, a township resident, noted that none of the Proposal 1 funding would benefit township local and subdivision roads and urged voters to renew the township’s 10-year road renewal millage that is earmarked for local road repairs. More than 68.2 percent of local roads in Flint Township are in subdivisions, according to the township’s four-year improvement plan for local roads The township has 34.73 miles of state trunk line, 42.4 miles of county primary roads and 171.14 miles of local roads.