Thursday, May 18, 2006

State Senator Gilda Jacobs introduces bill to raise Oakland Co. sales tax to 7%

Reported Thursday in both State Senator Jacobs' newsletter and The Detroit News and Friday in The Mirror, Jacobs and Ann Arbor's Liz Brator introduced legislation to allow counties to raise their sales tax to fund mass transit and road improvements.

In her newsletter, Jacobs said:
“We have long been advocating for a Southeast Michigan transportation system that would be a model of regional transportation, while lessening our dependence on mid-east oil,” Jacobs said. “It’s time to move forward on the issue of public transportation so we can compete with other states for the jobs and commerce that have eluded us. In addition, the funding would provide needed road improvements.”
That's all well and good, but this approach is bad for three reasons. First, raising money for mass transit shouldn't require changing the state's constitution. Michigan's constitution should address important things like how government works, asserting the equality of its citizens, equal protection, the limits of government, and other big ideas deserving a permanent address in a document intended to stand the test of time. It's not a bulletin board for political Post-its®.

Next, the State, much less South Eastern Michigan, doesn't have a mass transit plan. None. In fact, no one has even waxed John F. Kennedy and put a stake in the ground. Raising money for a plan that doesn't exist is irresponsible. That kind of irresponsibility is the product of acting before you think. As excited as Ferndale's city manager, Tom Barwin, may be about mass transit he should bottle his nervous energy and use it for the business at hand--like preserving funding for the city's fire and police departments, reigning in inspectors to stop hassling homeowners improving whole neighborhoods by improving their homes and encouraging inspectors to use their powers for good by citing owners of dilapidated and unkempt homes. Don't bother wasting gas looking for missing handrails when some homes can't even be seen behind overgrown shrubs, grass, and long-parked cars.

Lastly, why use a sales tax to fund transportation? Thinking governments use tax policy to influence behavior they want to encourage or discourage. Want people to quit smoking? Raise taxes on cigarettes. Want people to have more children or take care of aging relatives? Increase the per-dependent deduction. What kind of behavior does raising sales tax discourage? In the proposal offered by Jacobs and Braker it discourages shopping in Oakland County. I bet Oakland County retailers are thrilled about that. Not only has state government failed to provide relief from the Single Business Tax (SBT), now the state wants their customers to shop in other counties! It's fascinating, isn't it?

Paying $3/gallon may cause legislators discomfort in the billfold (or purse), but apparently it isn't the mother of invention we hoped it would be. It hasn't brought our governments together to fashion a plan. It's too early to know whether people will move closer to the office or stop driving low gas-mileage vehicles. Heck, we don't even live close enough to each other to carpool.

The state is still planning to spend $600+ million to widen I-75! Now that's a gas-saving idea.

Contact your state legislators and make sure they know it's a bad idea. It's possible that with all the knee jerking we're reading about they're suffering Restless Legislator Syndrome (RLS) and need a slap upside the head to pop them out of it.


  1. Concerning the constitution you said, "It's not a bulletin board for political Sticky Notes®."

    Without ignoring the issue at hand, your statement points to one of the biggest dangers in politics today. This should be published high and low until it is painfully obvious even to the most casual observer.

    Oh yeah, a county sales tax is a great way to encourage commerce. (excuse me while I remove my tongue from my cheek)

  2. Nice post, right on.

    We no longer all work in the same factory making widgets. Mass transportation is not the answer as our lives are much too complicated and different.

    The true soltion does not yet exist, but we are doomed as a nation if we do not find a subsititute for OIL.

    There are trillions of dollars for he who comes up with the answer, a kingdom lies before thier feet.