On May 5th, residents in my home state of Michigan will be voting on Proposal 1. The stated goal of Proposal 1 is to raise more revenue for Michigan’s crumbling roads and infrastructure, but is it needed?

If passed, proposal one would add $2.1 billion in funding by:

– Increasing the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.

– Exempt motor fuels from the sales tax.

– Increase the state’s gasoline tax from 19 cents per gallon to 42 cents per gallon.

– Increase registration fees for personal and commercial vehicles. [1]

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy estimates that these tax increases would cost Michigan households an additional $525 a year. [2] That isn’t a small tax increase.

The state claims they face a revenue problem, and that raising taxes to is the only option to fix Michigan’s roads. What they aren’t saying is that they have plenty of money for the roads, they just waste it on other things, something that won’t change under this proposal.

Even when the state does budget money for infrastructure, they blow it on useless projects. A perfect example of this is the $2.7 billion project to expand a 7 mile stretch of I-94 in Detroit [3]. They started this project despite the fact that the traffic data they are using to justify it is 15 years old [4], and due to population decline in the area, there has been no uptick in traffic on that stretch of highway since 2005!

That’s $2.7 billion (more than the new proposal raises in total) on one useless project, on just one 7 mile stretch. To put it into greater perspective, $2.7 billion equals 3% of the state’s entire yearly budget alone, and a whopping 53% of the state’s yearly road funding. [5] That’s right, the state is spending an amount that is over half of what it gets in yearly road funding on ONE project, a project that is based off of a 15 year old study in an area with steep population decline.

Of course, blowing $2.7 billion on a useless project is great for construction companies, who are the principle donors lobbying to get even more money. In fact, here are the top donors in support of Proposal 1 and how much they have donated to the campaign so far:

Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association – $2.3 million
Michigan Energy First – $250,000
Asphalt Pavement Association of Michigan – $200,000
Consumers Energy – $125,000
Angelo Iafrate Construction Co. – $100,000
Hoffman Bros Inc. – $100,000
American Council of Engineering Companies – $50,000
Business Leaders for MI Pac II – $30,000
Guy Hurley Blaser & Heuer – $20,000
HNTB Corporation – $10,000 [6]

Not too hard to find out who actually stands to win if this proposal passes, well connected construction companies with lobbyist in Lansing, who will get more useless projects like the one going on in Detroit. Other winners include the state, who is going to funnel some of that money to pay down debt and other expenses before even spending it on roads. When they do spend it on roads, why should they be trusted to spend it wisely? How can we trust they won’t just waste it on bad projects that line the pockets of the donors who helped them pass the proposal?

If we allow states to blow our tax money and then come crawling back for more, they will never make the sacrifices and smart budget choices needed to actually improve our infrastructure. If Michigan residents don’t want to pay more at the pump and more when they go to the store, for people who can’t spend it wisely, they should probably vote no on Proposal 1.

[1] http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2013-2014/billanalysis/House/pdf/2013-HLA-HJRUU-811CFFAD.pdf

[2] http://www.mackinac.org/20974

[3] http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,1607,7-151-9621_11058_53088_53115—,00.html

[4] http://uspirgedfund.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Highway%20Boondoggles%20USPIRG.pdf

[5] http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/Michigan_state_spending.html

[6] http://ballotpedia.org/Michigan_Sales_Tax_Increase_for_Transportation_Amendment,_Proposal_1_%28May_2015%29

This article was authored by Michael Lee