Voters deny Prop 1, rebuke lawmakers, Snyder

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

Michigan voters soundly rejected Proposal 1 Tuesday, with many voicing anger at the lack of focus of where the money would be spent and what the state has done with the money it already has.

More than 89 percent of the about 33,299 votes tallied in St. Clair County were against the proposal.

More than 94 percent of voters in Emmett voted against the proposal. St. Clair residents showed it the most support, with 17.66 percent in favor.

About 86 percent of Port Huron voters cast ballots against it.

Eighty-eight percent of Sanilac County voters rejected the proposal.

“I voted no,” said Tim Lamar of East China. “There’s plenty of places they can take the money from to fix the roads.

“They just have to do what we do in our homes and use common sense budgeting.”

Proposal 1 would have raised nearly $1.3 billion extra for roads, increasing the state sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, taking the sales tax off fuel sales and hiking fuel taxes.

When fully implemented, the tax hikes would have also generated about $200 million a year more for schools; $116 million for transit and rail; send $111 million more to local governments; and give a $260-million tax break to low- and moderate-income families through restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“It’s essential that making Michigan’s infrastructure safer remains a top priority,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “While voters didn’t support this particular proposal, we know they want action taken to maintain and improve our roads and bridges. The ‘relentless’ part of relentless positive action means that we start anew to find a comprehensive, long-term solution to this problem. Doing nothing isn’t an option as the costs are too great. Michiganders need to be able to get behind the wheel and not worry about dodging potholes or seeing plywood to catch crumbling concrete under overpasses. We appreciate that this bipartisan plan was supported by so many groups – business leaders and unions, public safety officials and local governments, teachers, and the list goes on. I plan to work with my partners in the Legislature on a solution that gives Michigan residents the safe roads they need and deserve and bolsters our growing economy.”

Local voters didn’t like the promise the tax increase would fix roads, yet so many dollars would fund other issues.

“I feel when they put it out as a road tax, it should be used for the roads,” said Tim Danielson, who cast his ballot in St. Clair. “They put too much other stuff in it.”

He said the state increased license plate fees several years ago with the goal of increasing road funding.

“That was supposed to be for fixing the roads, and nobody’s fixing the roads,” he said.

Carl Norton, 58, also voted against the measure.

“There’s enough money in government,” the Kimball Township man said. “I don’t understand why we’re having to raise taxes to pay for something that should already be taken care of. And the money should go straight to the roads. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a ‘No.’ You don’t raise the taxes and then disperse the money everywhere else if it’s a road tax.”

Larry Stineman, 72, Port Huron, did not support the tax increase.

“If this is all they could come up with then they need to go back to school and learn how to approach the public because we elected them,” he said. “They got money stored away somewhere we can’t see.”

Robert Atkinson, 53, of Kimball Township, said voting the proposal down was a difficult choice for him.

“People are torn. We want the roads fixed but we don’t want to be taxed anymore. I think taxpayers are getting really tired of being taxed to death,” Atkinson said.

Lydia Vozza, 47, of Kimball Township voted no because she said it was too unclear.

“It’s hiding something. If they had a straight bill that said 100 percent of it is for the roads that would have been great,” Vozza said.

Joe Trzasko, 81, of Kimball Township said the lack of focus on where the dollars would be spent also resulted in his vote against it.

“They pushed that it was for the roads. But there were so many loopholes, so much money that went to other places. The roads need to be fixed. You know that, and I know that, but…they don’t tell you about everything else that’s going on. In a small way they do,” he said.

Retired road construction worker David Sermo, 58, turned out to Kimball Township offices to vote down what he called an enormous tax increase even though he agreed the roads need repair.

“This is something that should have been addressed 15 or 20 years ago,” he said. “The roads are terrible. We’ve got the highest allowable weight in any state for trucks…it just tears up the roads and with our weather.”

Amy Hamlin, a 32-year-old Marysville resident, has had her mind made up since the proposal was first introduced.

“I don’t think raising taxes will help our situation,” Hamlin said. “I think they need to take an overall look at the money pool. The rest of us have to live on a budget, why can’t Lansing?”

John Ritter, a 69-year-old Marysville resident, said he voted against Proposal 1.

“There’s too many add-ons,” he said. “If it was strictly roads then it’s not a problem. But when you include all those add-ons, it don’t mean squat to me.”

Marysville resident Gery Ureel, 52, said he is voting against the state amendment because he doesn’t want an increase in sales tax.

“I don’t want the sales tax increase to go through,” he said. “Not everything is going to the roads. Prices for everything are going to sky rocket.”

Lois and Don Fordt, of East China Township, had just finished voting at the township hall around 8:15 a.m.

“It’s your duty to do that,” Lois Fordt said. “We always vote. You might not like what you’re voting on, but you have to make a decision.”

Neither of them wanted to say how they had voted

“If you don’t like the way things are running, you try to change them,” Don Fordt said.

Karen Schneider, of St. Clair, wouldn’t say how she voted in the city’s Ward 1 — but she clearly didn’t care for Gov. Rick Snyder.

“I’m concerned about what Snyder’s doing,” she said. “I’m not happy with the governor.”

Mandy Rhadigan, also of St. Clair, said she was surprised Proposal 1 was the only thing on the ballot.

“I voted no,” she said. “I don’t agree with all the taxes they want to increase.

“My whole family is voting no: We even got the one who just turned 18, and he’s voting no.”

Kristy Alexander, of St. Clair, said she was going to vote no on Proposal 1.

“It’s malarkey, it’s ridiculous,” she said.

“I vote to have a voice,” Alexander said. “If we don’t speak up for what we believe in … who will?”

Mike Coe, 73, of Marysville, said he voted in favor of Proposal 1.

“It’s the best that they can put out there,” Coe said. “I don’t agree with a lot of it, but we need to have the roads fixed. It doesn’t look like the legislature is going to do anything else.”

The main reason behind his decision stems from the current state of roads.

“Everybody knows that we have to do something with roads,” Coe said. “After manufacturing and agriculture, out biggest industry is tourism. If we expect people to come into the state, we need to present ourselves well. It’s this or nothing.”

Reporters Syeda Ferguson, Bob Gross and Nicole Hayden contributed to this report.

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 6, 2015)

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