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Michigan Legislature Puts Corporations Ahead of Voters at Every Turn

05/12/2015 09:25 am ET | Updated May 12, 2016

After Tuesday's resounding defeat of Proposal 1 which was meant to raise funding for Michigan roads while allowing cowardly elected officials to pretend they didn't support a tax increase, the question for the legislature and Governor Rick Snyder is; what now?

Polls show that 87 percent of Michigan residents want Lansing to "Immediately begin working on an alternative road funding plan" which suggests that the vast majority of Michiganders understand that the state's infrastructure spending has been woefully inadequate under the Republican-led legislature.

Part of the problem here is that Republican legislators are so clueless or inept that their take away from this defeat is that voters don't want to pay more taxes. While this may be true of a small percentage of people, polls show that the over 75 percent of voters were against proposal 1 for reasons other than a general opposition to an increased tax rate. Polls also show that 62 percent of Michigan residents would be willing to pay an extra $10 per month to fix Michigan's transportation system.

Not surprisingly, one of the few things in Michigan with a lower favorability rating than Michigan's roads is the Michigan legislature. Yes, voters are more inclined to support Michigan's pothole covered roads than they are to support the elected body tasked with deciding what to do with our tax dollars. Perhaps it's this lack of faith in the legislature that has people unwilling to send any more money to Lansing.

After all, if you look at this legislature's priorities, it becomes very clear that the people who would have ended up footing the bulk of the bill for roads under proposal 1 are many of the 50 percent of Michigan residents that have already seen their taxes increased by this legislature. Between 2009 and 2013 the total tax revenue Michigan collected from corporations fell from $2,554,138,000 to $687,560,000 while the revenue contributed by individuals increased from $6,071,514,000 to $8,211,359,000. This means Michigan residents have seen a 35 percent increase in their taxes while corporations have seen their contributions fall by 73 percent.

Most voters already realize that they have done their fair share by paying over $2 billion more in taxes than just a few years ago. If there isn't enough money left to pay for improving and maintaining Michigan's roads, it seems the nearly $2 billion cut in taxes for corporations is the most likely culprit.

Of course the idea for cutting taxes is to bring more jobs to Michigan; however, it should be noted that in the two years prior to implementing the corporate tax cut Michigan, ranked number 3 in job growth while that ranking has subsequently fallen to 21st. Instead it is likely that the political obsession with cutting taxes has cost Michigan jobs since polls show that having access to good roads was the number one concern for executives when deciding where to locate their business.

Additionally, University of Michigan economist Don Grimes says that only 10,000 to 15,000 jobs per year cannot be explained by growth in the auto industry or national economic improvement. Assuming 100 percent of those jobs can be attributed to the corporate tax cut, which seems unlikely, are 10,000 to 15,000 new jobs really worth $2 billion in lost tax revenue?

Making matters worse is the fact that not only are individuals paying more taxes but they have also seen the value of their wages drop when compared to other states. A report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Michigan's ranking among the states of "real per capita income" fell 38th to 39th last year. If the tax burden is going to be shifted away from corporations onto the working class shouldn't the goal be to attract the high paying jobs of the future instead of fighting for the low paying jobs of the past?

But perhaps the biggest question for this legislature is, what reason is there to believe that voters support the Republican position of smaller government through tax cuts? Ask any Michigan resident if they would like to pay lower taxes and they are likely to say yes. Ask that same resident if they would like to pay less for their car, their insurance, their groceries, their gas, or their utilities. Again the answer would likely be yes. Just because people want to see their dollar go farther doesn't mean they want inferior services, which is exactly what the Republican obsession with cutting taxes has done. How about we just tap some of the $5 billion the governor has earmarked for "jobs" (see corporate giveaway) and use that to fix our crumbling infrastructure?

The battle to properly fund Michigan's roads is far from over, but unless voters get involved, the legislature is likely to continue to increase your taxes, gut education funding, and force your local government to cut police, fire and other essential services instead of asking corporations to do their fair share. Because the only thing this legislature hates more than taxing corporations is losing their job. It's about time we make their worst fears come true.