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Opponents to state sales tax vote in May getting organized now

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Money from the increased sales tax would mainly fund infrastructure improvements.

Voters will decide in May whether to raise taxes for roads and education.

Keith Allard chairs the Grand Rapids Taxpayer Association, a group formed to oppose a city income tax extension in Grand Rapids. It passed last May.

Now he’s opposing a proposed increase in the Michigan sales tax that residents will vote on in May.

“Our point right now is, and things will change, we’re going into Christmas and New Years and holidays – people aren’t paying attention to politics and God love them for that. But we wanted to make sure that people knew that there are other options here,” Allard said.

Allard says lawmakers should be able to find $2 billion for road improvements in the state’s $52 billion budget without going to taxpayers for more money. Why, he asks, doesn’t the state ask for money to pay for prisons or incentives for the film industry?

“It comes down to roads because it’s something that everybody drives on, they can understand. But how come there’s nothing else in that $52 billion budget that we say we need a sales tax increase for?” Allard asks.

Boosting the 6% sales tax to 7% is the centerpiece of a plan to pump $1.3 billion more into transportation infrastructure and at least $300 million more into schools. The required two-thirds of members in the Republican-dominated Senate backed the constitutional amendment early last Friday morning. The House approved it earlier Friday morning.

Lawmakers passed a significant increase in the state's per-gallon gasoline tax that will take effect only if voters approve the sales tax hike along with the elimination of the sales tax that drivers pay at the pump.

“If it was a great plan, why was it being passed at 6 a.m. on the last day of session? This was a last-minute thing. The implications for public policy were not thought out,” Allard said.

He worries the sales tax increase would hurt low- and middle-income families most.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.