Jan 5, 2015
The Michigan legislature found a way to escape the blame for two different proposals for fixing the state’s crumbling roads that would both have hit the pockets of the working class: It decided to put the decision in front of voters through a referendum on the May ballot.
The referendum offers working class voters no good choices. A “Yes” vote would increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, require some internet companies to collect sales tax from Michigan residents for the first time, add on a wholesale gasoline tax amounting to three cents a gallon, and raise vehicle registration fees.
The money raised – they say – would provide 1.3 billion dollars for road construction and other transportation expenses, provide 300 million dollars for school funding, 100 million dollars for revenue sharing to cities, and 260 million dollars for restoring the Earned Income Tax credit that would benefit some low income taxpayers.
Of course, the politicians have promised money would be spent one way before, only to divert money to other areas later.
If the referendum fails, the bill offers no alternative funding for road construction, schools or the other expenditures.
The taxes in the bill are ones that hit the working class the hardest. The sales tax increase, unlike an increase in the state’s income tax, would hit even people who have no income. Rich and poor alike pay the same amount for vehicle registration fees, which is a much larger percentage of their income for lower income drivers.
Both Democrat and Republican legislators are banking on state residents’ frustration with roads that have been deteriorating for years to get a “Yes” vote. Recently a pedestrian bridge over a freeway in Detroit collapsed just before the heaviest morning traffic. Three bridges over the Rouge River coming into Detroit from the south are closed, with no funding planned for repairing them, leaving drivers only one route into the city. Freeways have flooded numerous times due to lack of maintenance to freeway drainage systems. And potholes from last year’s record cold and snowy winter still have not been fixed, leading to car repair bills – and worse – for many drivers.
It’s a no-win situation for working people. But one thing is certain. If workers vote to impose this tax on themselves, a year or two from now the politicians will say it wasn’t enough, and come back with a proposal to raise the sales tax from 7 to 8 percent, plus other tax increases on the population.
In this situation there are no good choices to vote FOR. Though voting against the proposal provides no guarantees the roads will get fixed, this proposal amounts to extortion. What the cops always say is, don’t give in to extortionists. We need to take their advice in this situation and not vote in favor of extortion.