Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
I continue to hear a great deal of misinformation about Proposal 1, including from state legislators and other Lansing "insiders" who claim to have a deep understanding of the proposal. They don't. Please, please, learn the facts about Proposal 1 before you vote on May 5th.
Personally, I'm still undecided. So are a lot of other people of all political beliefs and affiliations. I'm not trying to encourage anyone to vote for or against Proposal 1. I just want everyone to understand what their votes will actually mean.
We all agree that Michigan's roads are in bad shape. But the proposed constitutional amendment on the May 5th ballot will not fund or fix our roads (the increased road funding would be a creature of statute, as explained below). The constitutional amendment, itself, would deal almost entirely with education funding and local revenue sharing; none of the proposed constitutional language pertains to roads at all.
Proposal 1 would result in a slight net increase in annual School Aid Fund (SAF) revenue. However, as I have explained previously, most of this additional revenue would probably never make its way to K-12 schools. This is because Proposal 1, if adopted, will alter the overall nature of the SAF and will constitutionally authorize the use of SAF money for several brand new purposes. We simply do not know how much of the additional SAF revenue might be dedicated to these new uses.
There is no binding formula in place to tell us how much SAF money will be spent on each of the constitutionally enumerated uses; nor are there any past data to guide us in this calculus. So what do we actually know? Well, this much is certain: If Proposal 1 passes, the allocation of dollars among the five new SAF uses will be left entirely to the whims and uncertainties of the legislative appropriations process. The state constitution will have nothing to say about the manner in which the SAF money will be divvied up among these five areas.
It is true that Proposal 1 would also (1) constitutionally dedicate a portion of the state's use-tax revenue to the SAF, and (2) result in additional constitutional-revenue-sharing dollars for local units of government. These are two positive aspects of Proposal 1 that cannot be denied. But, again, neither has anything to do with the issue of road funding.
As for the 10 public acts that are tied to the outcome of the May 5th vote, there are quite simply more questions than answers. True, two of these public acts would alter the structure of Michigan's motor-vehicle fuel tax and dedicate the resulting fuel-tax revenue to transportation purposes, including roads and bridges. But I have opined that the 10 public acts should have been submitted to the electors individually rather than as a single package of bills tied to the outcome of a vote on a separate constitutional amendment. To the extent that the 10 bills have been submitted to the voters as a unitary package, and tied to a separate vote, the structure of Proposal 1 might well violate the Michigan Constitution.
Moreover, if the voters approve Proposal 1 on May 5th, the Michigan Legislature will be perfectly free to alter, amend, or repeal any or all of the 10 public acts. Therefore, it is completely misleading to say that Proposal 1 will "guarantee" additional revenue for Michigan's roads. The promised road funding would be "guaranteed" only insofar as any other statutory creation is "guaranteed." The Michigan courts have repeatedly held that one Legislature may not bind its successors. That is, any future Legislature can repeal the acts of a prior Legislature.
Proposal 1 is complex. Its structure and nuances are very difficult to understand, even for the most seasoned columnists and commentators. The newspaper articles about Proposal 1 have been largely incomplete and often even misleading.
In an effort to cut through the misinformation, I encourage you to consider the following accurate sources (in addition to my own blog posts embedded in the text above) that fairly present many of the issues:
1. Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency Report (as revised April 15, 2015)
2. Citizens Research Council Report (March 2015) (Although this report is generally accurate, it assumes that "higher education" includes both four-year state universities and community colleges. As I have previously explained, this is not true. The Michigan Constitution differentiates between "higher education" and "community colleges," and the constitution currently bars the Legislature from using School Aid Fund money for community college operations.)
3. MLive article (April 2, 2015)
4. Mackinac Center Policy Brief (March 25, 2015)
5. Amendment's Effects on Higher Ed Uncertain (April 8, 2015)
Please take the time to learn as much as you can about Proposal 1 before voting on May 5th.