In a few weeks Michigan voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of Proposal 1 – a $2 billion tax increase referred to the ballot by the state legislature. While most polls show this massive tax increase trailing, crony-spending interests are making a last ditch attempt to increase support for Proposal 1.

The ballot measure would amend the Michigan Constitution, increasing the sales and use tax rate to 7 percent. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy also notes:

These changes are “tie-barred” with eight legislative bills that will go into effect if voters approve of Proposal 1. These laws would hike the sales and use tax to 7 percent, create a new wholesale fuel tax of 41.7 cents per gallon and earmark this revenue for roads, increase the state’s earned income tax credit, boost spending on one public school program and create new rules pertaining to road construction projects for the Michigan Department of Transportation. 

A study on the impact Proposal 1 would have on taxpayers has revealed that the sales and use tax increase would amount to a $1.4 billion tax increase and the new, higher fuel tax would amount to a $463 million tax increase (also outpacing the rate of inflation).

James Hohman from the Mackinac Center has produced an excellent study detailing the flaws of Proposal 1, including serious concerns with how Michigan’s road funding works. Hohman notes:

Road construction in Michigan is primarily paid for with revenues from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Since these taxes are paid by people driving vehicles on public roads, they function as a user fee.

Taxes motorists pay do not meet the strict definition of user fees, however. Vehicle registration taxes for passenger vehicles, for example, are based on their value rather than their estimated wear on the roads. Further, hybrid and electric cars tend to be heavier and thus cause more wear on the roads, but owners of these vehicles buy less fuel and pay less in fuel taxes. People purchasing fuel for use in lawnmowers, snowmobiles or other recreational vehicles also pay for road maintenance.

Despite these divergences, the bulk of taxed fuel in Michigan is purchased for use by vehicles operating on government-funded roads.* But these taxes also can be appropriated for other purposes, which reduces their functioning as user fees. For instance, 10 percent of fuel taxes go to transit operations.

Americans for Tax Reform urges Michigan voters to oppose Proposal 1 and tell the Michigan legislature to find cost effective and pro-growth ways to fund the state’s transportation needs without lining the pockets of crony-spending interests.