Chamber CEO Issues Statement Regarding Transportation Funding and the May 2015 Sales Tax Increase Ballot Proposal

December 19, 2014

Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley on Friday, Dec. 19, issued the following statement on transportation funding and the May 2015 sales tax increase ballot proposal:

The Michigan Chamber is member-driven and policy-focused. Over the past 10 years, we have been actively involved in the debate over how to repair our state’s crumbling roads and bridges. At the direction of the Chamber’s Board, we have consistently advocated for a responsible increase in transportation funding based on user fees (e.g., motor fuel taxes and/or vehicle registration fees) because we believe those who use the roads should pay for the roads. 

Over the past 18 months, Chamber lobbyists worked with the Snyder Administration and lawmakers in the State House and Michigan Senate in a bipartisan effort to pass a comprehensive package of bills to provide $1.2 billion of additional revenue to fix the roads and improve public transit.  This policy goal could and should have been accomplished before year’s end through the legislative process. 

After the November election, due to an impasse between the House and Senate, the debate over transportation funding took a sudden and dramatic turn in a different direction. Instead of resolving differences between the House and Senate through the legislative process, the Governor and four legislative leaders in the House and Senate entered into negotiations resulting in an agreement that was announced yesterday. This agreement led to lawmakers quickly pushing a proposed constitutional amendment and related legislation through the House and Senate last night and early this morning. 

Instead of solving the road-funding problem through the legislative process, the Governor and legislative leaders proposed putting an amendment to the State Constitution on the ballot in May 2015. To provide funding for transportation and other issues that became part of the compromise, Michigan voters will be asked to approve a 16 percent increase in the sales tax rate from six to seven percent. Due to this sudden turn of events and lack of time to properly review the proposed constitutional amendment, the Michigan Chamber did not support the Legislature’s decision to put this proposal on the ballot.  

We're disappointed that after almost two years of debate, full-time lawmakers, who were in session throughout the year, waited until the last day and closing hours of a lame duck session to pass the buck to voters instead of doing their job.

The Michigan Chamber has a large and diverse membership. Different segments of our membership will be impacted differently by the proposed sales tax increase. So, we believe its’ very important to allow all Chamber members time to study the proposal and provide input before we make a decision on this important issue.  

After listening to member firms and carefully reviewing the policy implications and economic impact of this proposal, the Chamber's Board of Directors will decide some time later next year what, if any, position the Chamber takes on the May 2015 sales tax ballot proposal.