SAGINAW COUNTY (WJRT) – (02/04/15) – How should we pay for our crumbling roads?
In May, you’ll be asked to vote on a proposal that would raise the sales tax, sending $1.2 billion to road funding.
An effort is underway, centered right here in Mid-Michigan, to oppose that plan.
The Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals is lead by Saginaw County’s Paul Mitchell. The businessman and former Congressional candidate is concerned the proposed road funding fix, is all wrong.
Mitchell says there is one thing it seems everyone agrees on.
“The roads need work,” he said.
What Mitchell doesn’t agree with is the fix lawmakers came up with.
“They’re holding the roads hostage,” he said.
In a lame duck December session, Lansing lawmakers pushed a package of bills through, ultimately letting voters decide if a sales tax increase from 6 percent to 7 percent was the answer to pay for our crumbling roads. It would also remove the sales tax from fuel sales.
In addition, the package of bills would raise $300 million for K-12 schools, $100 million for transit and about $95 million for local governments.
We vote in May.
Mitchell says voters need to understand the entire package.
“Has an extra $700 million tacked on to it, over and above the commodity they say they want to fix the roads,” he said.
John Kaczynski, the director of Saginaw Valley State University’s James A. Barcia Center for Public Policy and Service, says complex ballot issues are a tough sell. “Usually, when folks have to read more at the ballot to understand issues at the ballot, they’re usually not likely to be in favor of that proposal.”
While Mitchell is heading the Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals that is opposing the proposal, so far no entity, like a chamber of commerce, has stepped up to argue the other side.
“There’s probably some serious debate going on and that’s not good for the proposal,” Kaczynski said.
So what does this businessman and former Congressional candidate want to see happen on the road ahead?
“I think fixing our roads starts with the original House version that was revenue neutral and may not be perfect. But if we start there, and start the conversation there, at least we’re focusing on fixing our roads and not a grab bag of everything else,” Mitchell said.