Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Michigan's Proposal 15-1

The wording as it will appear on the ballot:

A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
The proposed constitutional amendment would:
*Eliminate sales / use taxes on gasoline / diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.
*Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).
*Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career / technical education, and prohibit use for 4-year colleges / universities.
*Give effect to laws, including those that:
   -Increase sales / use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment.
   -Increase gasoline / diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation, increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes.
   -Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.
   -Increase earned income tax credit.
Should this proposal be adopted?


Screw me once, shame on you.  Screw me twice...

The general opinion around the morning coffee table is that the increased revenues will not result in a net increase in the funding of roads or of the School Aid Fund.

With great fanfare, funding from the Lottery went into the School Aid Fund but it resulted in no net increase in the fund because legislature defunded the SAF dollar-for-dollar.  That resulted in the net increase showing up in the general ledger.

The State of Michigan has some huge problems.  Most of the pensions for public employees are about 65% funded.  This degree of mismanagement is probably not savable.  Reorganization proceedings should happen sooner, rather than later. Raising taxes is a matter of throwing good money at a lost cause.

Is it even good law?

What benefit is there to embedding this kind of very specific language into a State Constitution.  That is akin to using a stone tablet, and a hammer-and-chisel as a scratch pad to balance your check book.

And even if the monies did result in large, net increases in the stated targets, why should road construction receive such favorable treatment?

My county deals with shrinking budgets by letting low-use paved roads revert back to aggregate.  That is analogous to my pulling paddock division fence when I cannot maintain it.

And I know it is a snarky detail, but the verbiage eliminates taxes on fuel (underlined) but has language to increase it in lockstep with inflation (also underlined).  What kind of sloppy, half-azzed writing is that? Does the fact that "increase tax" comes after "eliminate tax" supersede the "eliminate tax" language?


The coffee table displays a decided lack of trust with regard to politicians.  They snort with derision when they boil the sales pitch down to simple concepts:

Sure, we mismanaged the resources you gave us.  That was the past.  This time it will be different. You have to give us more resources because we have to fix the mess we made of things.

It is not believable when it comes out of Billy the Boozer's mouth.  It is not believable coming out of a politician's mouth.


Outstanding article about why governmental units are hardwired to NOT perform routine maintenance.  Spoiler:  Budget that is granted to cover staffing-and-maintenance ratchets to staff-only.  Spalled concrete does not have the benefit of collective bargaining.  Structures with +50 year life spans can seemingly have routine maintenance deferred just a little bit longer...

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The important point in Coyote's essay is that deferred maintenance is not a problem of resourcing, it is a problem rooted in the culture and politics of government. 

And increasing the sales tax by an additional 1% will not address the culture and politics of government.  Only a hard-stop on the budget will.


  1. Giving failed government more revenue to increase the rate of failure is a fools errand. . I note with a bit of irony that I'm making this comment on the day when our own Uncle Sam is taking a big wet bite out of my butt. Time to write the Congress-critter again

  2. It IS a problem they love to kick down the road as they merrily spend the money that SHOULD go to maintenance...