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Michigan Voters Reject $2 Billion Bipartisan Flim Flam

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The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it. — P.J. O’Rourke

Sometimes, a ray of light breaks through the dense gloom overhanging our political culture.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan voters, in a mass outbreak of common sense, on Tuesday resoundingly rejected a $2 billion tax increase proposal pitched as a fix for the state’s roads and, among many other things, a help for the working poor. That was one of the more outrageous claims, but the topper was Gov. Rick Snyder’s gun-to-the-head threat in March that if voters did not approve the tax increase, “there is no Plan B for the roads.” Insulting voters with such tactics undoubtedly played a role in the thrashing that Snyder and the Lansing political establishment received at the polls. As the Detroit News put it:

Proposal 1 suffered the worst defeat Tuesday of any Michigan constitutional amendment ballot measure since the current constitution was adopted more than a half-century ago, as 80.1 percent of voters rejected the sales tax increase and road funding plan.

The prior low mark of a constitutional ballot measure was set in 1980, when 78.8 percent of the electorate beat back Proposal A, which would have shifted taxes to ensure equal school funding among all districts in the state, according to state records. It was up against two property tax relief measures that attracted more votes even though they, too, were struck down.

This year’s thumping occurred even though the measure was backed by Gov. Rick Snyder as well as the Republican and Democratic legislative leaders from last year’s Michigan House and Senate. The Safe Roads Yes campaign ended up amassing about $9.5 million, 27 times as much money as the roughly $350,000 the three opposition campaigns had combined. The result was a 4-1 defeat of the ballot proposal lawmakers cobbled together a week before Christmas.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out what Michigan voters already knew, which was that any measure crafted to raise funds for road building should be dedicated to just that.

Governor Rick Snyder and the GOP legislature pushed Proposal 1, which would have amended the Michigan constitution to allow raising the sales tax to 7% from 6%, rejiggering the way gas is taxed and raising vehicle registration fees. The package also included an expansion of the earned-income tax credit, money for community colleges, public schools and local governments. Michiganders were promised about $1.3 billion in road spending if they’d foot the bill for more than $700 million in goodies.

[ … ]

Filling potholes really isn’t as hard as Michigan Republicans are making it seem: The state could cut a program that hands out money to wealthy filmmakers, nix $40 million in Amtrak subsidies and repeal a prevailing-wage law to come up with the $2 billion Proposal 1 hoped to raise, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Voters can elect Democrats if they want a tax increase. They elect Republicans to make hard spending choices and grow the economy.

The Mackinac Center’s legislative analyst Jack McHugh added this:

The colossal defeat of Prop 1 is even more intriguing since it had the backing of both the Republican and Democratic parties as well as the governor, who campaigned for it in the final weeks. With a few exceptions the mainstream news media also overwhelmingly favored the measure, with the state’s three statewide print and online news sources (Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, MLive) all calling for a “yes” vote.

The defeat came despite the fact that a scattered opposition was massively outspent. According the most recent reports the election committee Safe Votes Yes raised $9.6 million to get the measure passed, mostly coming from road builders but also from other special interests that appeared to have no direct stake in the outcome, such as large utilities (who have separate issues of their own pending before the current Legislature).

“The distance between voters on one side and the mainstream media and political class on the other is both startling and unprecedented,” said [McHugh]. “According to MIRS News the measure passed in just three communities, two of which (Ann Arbor and East Lansing) are considered by many to be elitist and disconnected from the mass of Michigan voters (Kalamazoo was the third community).”

What now? Oh yeah, as the Oakland Press informs us: Lawmakers tackle non-existent Plan B for roads with Prop 1 defeat

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John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.

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