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WSW: Troubling Signs for Sales Tax Ballot Proposal

Road construction - file photo by WMUK


Initial polling numbers don't look good and there was a shake up in the campaign to approve the ballot measure to raise the state sales tax. 

All of that looks like trouble for the proposal on the May 5th ballot to increase Michigan's sales tax from 6% to 7%. Michigan Public Radio Network Managing Editor and Capitol Bureau Chief Rick Pluta told WMUK's Gordon Evans that it's important to remember that it's difficult to accurately poll a ballot proposal. Since the election is being held in May, Pluta says it's also hard to know how many voters will show up, and what kinds of voters will go to the polls. 

But Pluta says the early polling is not promising for the ballot proposal. He says it's not only a tax increase, but part of a complex funding package that's tied to road funding. Pluta says history shows that the more complicated a ballot proposal is, the more likely voters are to reject it. 

Interview with Rick Pluta - web version

Other bad news for the ballot issue has included a study by the Anderson Economic Group that shows residents in the state may not be able to deduce vehicle registration fees on their federal income tax. Governor Snyder has said that's not certain, and could be fixed by the Legislature if it turns out to be the case. There was also a campaign team ready to work for approval of the ballot issue. But a change was made suddenly, and another team brought in. Pluta says that did not send a message of stability as supporters were trying to raise money for the campaign. 

Pluta says supporters believe their best argument for the ballot proposal is the condition of Michigan's roads. The feeling is that voters may put aside any reservations in favor of doing something. Pluta says it's hard to know what effect the annual spring thaw, which leaves even more potholes, will have on the May election. 

If voters reject the ballot proposal, the debate over road funding starts back at square one. Pluta says there are concerns that if the sales tax increase is rejected, this legislative session will pass without any significant reform on road funding.

Another controversy surrounding the ballot proposal is the question about Governor Rick Snyder's involvement in the campaign. An election law complaint was filed by a tea party activist over Snyder calling for approval of the ballot measure in his State of the State address. After the interview was recorded, the Secretary of State dismissed the complaint. 

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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