A group of Michiganders is trying to make it more difficult to raise taxes in Michigan despite the objections of Democrats and most mainstream Republicans.
The proposal, sponsored by Michigan Alliance for Prosperity, would require either a two-thirds majority of the State House or Senate, or a citizen vote during a November election, to pass new tax laws. Any legislation proposing additional taxes, tax base expansion or changes to tax rates would need a super majority to be implemented.
About 26 percent of Michigan voters said they would vote yes on the proposal in a poll conducted by Fox 2 News this month, making it the ballot proposal with the least amount of voter support. About 44 percent of voters said they would vote no, while 31 percent were undecided.
According to the Michigan Alliance for Prosperity’s website, the proposal is crucial in improving the state’s economic prosperity.
“We believe bringing back Michigan’s leading edge means changing the dialogue in Lansing to make tax increases on our citizens the last resort and real reform the first resort,” the website reads.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said in an article he authored in the < a href= “http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20121014/OPINION04/310140078/Rick-Snyder-Tax-proposal-imperils-state-s-comeback?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7COpinions%7Cp”>Lansing State Journal on Oct. 13 that the passing of the proposal would completely alter the functionality of the state government.
“Proposal 5 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Snyder wrote. “Supporters market it in a way that appeals to the anti-tax sentiment in all of us. But look closer and you’ll see it isn’t right for Michigan.”
Snyder explained the proposal shifts “political clout” from the average person and could allow 13 senators to “block tax legislation” supported by the rest of legislators, making supermajorities difficult to achieve in order to pass tax reductions.
Snyder added the measure could prevent important reforms that have proved beneficial to the state in the past.
“If the two-thirds amendment had been in place a few years ago, we couldn’t have repealed the job-killing Michigan Business Tax,” Snyder said in the release. “We couldn’t have taken the steps we did to improve Michigan’s business climate to bring more and better jobs to our state.”
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) said the proposal has primarily received support from individuals who strongly oppose increases in taxes.
“I think that a lot of the vehement anti-tax individuals, such as the folks who organize the Tea Party, are probably more supportive of (Proposal 5) than your average citizen,” Irwin said.
He added that there has been heavy resistance to the super majority measure from politicians and business networks.
“(The proposal has) been roundly panned by Republicans as well as Democrats; the Chamber of Commerce opposes it, most traditional Republican sources oppose it,” Irwin said. “It’s pretty roundly opposed by people who are involved in the system or people who depend upon government.”
State Rep. Mark Ouimet (R–Scio Twp.) said he is concerned that the proposal gives ultimate control of tax legislation to a small group of legislators. He noted that though Republicans have tended to support the proposal more than Democrats, he is not in favor of it.
“If the state wanted to move to a different type of taxing system or a funding source, (Proposal 5) would hold that up and (the legislation) would be held hostage by 13 people,” Ouimet said. “I don’t think that’s healthy.”
LSA senior Lauren Coffman, the communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, wrote in an e-mail interview that passage of Proposal 5 would inhibit the necessary flexibility of the Michigan lawmaking process.
“Lawmakers should have the opportunity to legislate in the way they believe best serves the needs of their constituents,” Coffman wrote. “By adding this restriction to their powers, we risk further legislative stalemates and roadblocks.”
Coffman added that the measure could have larger implications on funding of infrastructure throughout the state.
“A cap on tax dollars could also mean budget cuts to institutions of higher learning, such as the University of Michigan, as other items become budget priorities,” Coffman wrote.
LSA senior Nicole Miller, a member of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said changing the state constitution for tax legislation should be considered more carefully.
“People in general are a little bit hesitant to amend the Constitution — their instinct would be to vote no,” Miller said.
Miller said the restrictiveness of the proposal would make emergency government responses to economic crises much more complicated to implement, creating even greater problems for the state.
“If you lock the state into its current tax structure and make it too difficult to adjust, if there are serious financial issues it makes it difficult to deal with those,” Miller said.