Detroit Schools Teachers Placemaking

Michigan Democrats willing to pay for public investments

We have been critical of Michigan policymakers, including Michigan Democrats, for supporting public investments but not being willing to propose raising taxes to pay for them. (See my post entitled Kansas Rs raise taxes, Michigan Ds MIA.)  No more!

Governor Whitmer’s budget includes a big increase in the gas tax and a partial rollback of Governor Snyder’s huge business tax cut. As we wrote previously she deserves lots of praise for her courage to abandon the failed playbook Michigan has been following for at least two decades of tax cuts as the way to improve the economic well being of Michigan households.

Then this week State Representatives Wittenberg, Ellison and Warren introduced legislation to implement a graduated income tax, called the Fair Tax Plan. Their proposal “would institute a graduated state income tax, cutting or holding steady taxes for 92 percent of Michigan families while increasing state revenue by over $2.5 billion.”

So Michigan Democrats are now willing to be honest with Michiganders that if you want better roads and better schools you need to pay for them. And it is not just roads and schools that are vital public investments to put Michigan back on the path to a place where all Michiganders can afford to pay the bills, save for their retirement and the kids’ education.

As we wrote in our A Path to Good-paying Careers for all Michiganders: A 21st Century state policy agenda:

The places with the strongest economies are those that combine high quality education systems and high quality of place that retains and attracts mobile talent. Both education and placemaking require public investments. These types of public investments, paid for by our taxes, are the state policy playbook most likely to return Michigan to high prosperity, creating an economy with lots of good-paying jobs.

Its not just Kansas Republicans who understand this and have been willing to propose and vote for higher taxes. As the AP reports:

In Ohio, new Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican who attacked his opponent in the 2018 campaign as a tax-friendly Democrat, this month signed off on a 10.5-cent gas tax increase and a 19-cent diesel tax hike. Republican Govs. Kay Ivey of Alabama and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas last month signed increases that were their states’ first in decades, of 10 cents and 3 cents respectively. And the GOP-led General Assembly in Virginia this month voted to add 7 cents a gallon in some parts of the state, which was a win for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

No one wants to pay higher taxes. But most everyone wants good infrastructure and education from birth through college. Most everyone also understands that that both infrastructure and education are vital to economic prosperity and that to get them they must be paid for. Governor Whitmer and Representatives Wittenberg, Ellison and Warren have taken the lead in proposing how to pay for the public investments that matters most to recreating a high-prosperity Michigan. Its time for other Michigan policymakers to join them.

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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