Tuesday night, a majority of Michigan voters rejected Proposal 1, the initiative to increase sales tax rates from 6 to 7 percent to raise money for road repair.
Though votes continue to come in, as of approximately 11:00 p.m, more than 640,000 Michigan residents rejected the proposal, comprising 78 percent of the state’s voting population. In Washtenaw County, 5,237 voters, 65 percent of voters in the county, rejected the proposal.
Backed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), the initiative aimed to repair Michigan’s roads and upgrade other major infrastructure. Additionally, the proposal aims to raise funds to improve the state’s mass transit system, increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and provide additional resources to cities and schools.
The proposal, if passed, would also have had significant implications for higher education funding. The proposal requested the removal of sales tax on fuel sales, which currently funds schools through the School Aid Fund and provides funding to local governments.
Roughly 20 percent of the yearly appropriation for public universities comes from the School Aid Fund. Under the proposed bill, public universities would no longer receive money from the fund, through community colleges and K-12 education providers would.
While the proposal had the potential to impact government appropriations to the University, public universities in the state of Michigan have only recently been allocated funds from the School Aid Fund. Historically, for state funding, the University has relied more heavily on the General Fund.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily before elections ended, representative Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) said he supported the proposal, but he anticipated voters would not pass the resolution.
“I think its going to fail today because citizens are very frustrated that the Republicans are continuing to lower taxes on the wealthy and increase taxes on the lower and middle class,” Irwin said.
In an interview with the Daily following the election, Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor) said he was disappointed in the results of the proposal, but he believes voters sent a clear message.
“I think that the message is that they want the roads fixed, but they do not trust the Legislature to do it in the manner that was proposed by Proposal 1,” he said. “I think that the leadership that has been in place for the last four years has given them plenty of reason not to trust the current Legislature.”
Economics Prof. Donald Grimes said effects of Proposal 1’s failure may be felt in five to 10 years, by which point costs to repair the roads will drastically increase.
“Five or ten years from now this is going to be a severe blow to the Michigan economy and the quality of life of residents,” Grimes said.
The state Legislature is considering alternative plans for road repair, including one proposed by House Speaker Jase Bolger, which passed in the state House, but not the state Senate, last term. If passed, the initiative would cut sales tax for public education and local government, allocating $1.2 billion to roads without creating additional revenues and costs.
Zemke said he was disappointed that voters rejected Proposal 1, but that he remains hopeful about improving road safety conditions in the future.
“We need to get back to work,” he said. “This is a serious issue that is affecting us economically and affecting us in terms of a safety standpoint and we’ve got to get it done. I am committed, and I think I can speak for my colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus, at least, that we are committed to getting back to work first thing tomorrow morning and trying to make something happen.”