Voters to decide on Proposal 1 for Tuesday ballot

Gary Adler carries a voting sign Mon, May 4, at Griswold Street Baptist Church in Port Huron. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

Gary Adler carries a voting sign Mon, May 4, at Griswold Street Baptist Church in Port Huron. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

Voters will decide Tuesday the fate of the largest tax hike proposed in Michigan in nearly 50 years.

If approved, Proposal 1 would change the following under the state’s constitution:

Increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.

Exempt motor fuels from the sales tax.

Increase the state’s gasoline tax from 19 cents per gallon to about 42 cents.

Increase registration fees for personal and commercial vehicles.

Those tax hikes would amount to about $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2016 — with the transportation taxes going to roads and almost $800 million in new sales tax revenues going to schools, municipalities, tax relief for low-income families and the state’s general fund.

The last time such a large tax hike was proposed in the state was 1967, when the personal income tax and a corporate income tax was introduced.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

St. Clair County Clerk Jay DeBoyer thinks voter turnout may be higher than most May elections.

“Historic records say it will be low (about 20 percent), but I have a feeling we will see better than historic, it seems to be a pretty polarizing issues,” he said. “Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 25 to 30 percent turnout, or more.”

As of Monday, the county had 121,777 registered voters.

DeBoyer said the uniqueness of it being a solo issue ballot could bring more people out as well.

“I think you might get a surprising turnout,” he said.

Fort Gratiot resident Larry Armstrong voted by absentee ballot last week and said his decision was an easy one when it came to Proposal 1.

Armstrong said he doesn’t understand why all the funding has to go to so many different places and wants the issue to be left alone.

“They just looked like they were shifting taxes from one place to another,” he said. “Whenever they do that it seems like we end up paying more taxes.”

Marcus Rutledge, of Port Huron, said he plans on voting against the proposal, although he understands the need.

“I do not want to pay a higher tax in general, but the trust fund we have for our roads is running out of money,” he said. “If this doesn’t work, maybe we can find something else to tax that will be just as sustainable.”

Port Huron city Clerk Sue Child said when voters come to vote within their precinct, they will need photo identification issued by the government, which includes a driver’s license or passport.

If no proper identification is provided, the register voter will have to fill out an affidavit of no identity.

While the city’s absentee voting is up slightly, Child said she does not expect a different turnout from last May’s election.

“I don’t think we are going to have an August primary turnout,” she said. “We encourage people to study the issue, come to their precinct and vote. This is where their voice is heard.”

Residents who do not know if they are registered to vote or would like to see a sample ballot can go online and visit http://www.michigan.gov/vote.

“That website is key to showing where they need to vote,” Child said. “The critical part is many people show up at the wrong polling location.”

Sanilac County Clerk Denise McGuire will be posting results as they are counted Tuesday night.

She doesn’t have a guess as to what voter turnout will be.

The only local race on the ballot is in Greenleaf Township, where voters will choose who will lead the municipality — the incumbent supervisor facing recall, or one of two challengers.

Supervisor Kirk Winter is being challenged for his seat that runs through December 2016 by Rodney Mazure, a township resident, and Randy Schuette, who is a trustee on the township board.

The recall filed by Ronald Brzuchowski alleges Winter moved forward with purchasing a new township hall without board approval.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 4, 2015)

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