Props and disses
Our take on the renewable energy standard, emergency managers and the other state ballot questions
Published: November 1, 2012
Given that, the CRC notes, the question is whether this particular issue is of such significance that it should be enshrined in the state constitution.
We think it is not. If there is a desire on the part of the public to seek reforms, a voter-initiated law or referendum would be a better approach.
We recommend a no vote on Prop. 4.
Require a two-thirds legislative super-majority to raise taxes
When you have the state's top Republican and the man who challenged him for the job, Lansing's Democratic mayor, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in opposition to something, you can be pretty sure that something is a very bad idea. When you have the conservative Detroit News and the lefties at the Metro Times lined up in opposition, you can be absolutely certain it's a very bad idea.
Which is exactly what Proposal 5 is.
If approved by voters, it would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Michigan Legislature before any taxes could be raised — for any reason.
Which means that, no matter how much the state needed to increase funding for road repairs or schools or to deal with some unforeseen disaster, doing so would be virtually impossible.
Much of the money behind this effort is coming from Manuel "Matty" Mouroun, his family, and related businesses.
It is not exactly clear why the owners of the Ambassador Bridge have sunk millions into the effort to get Prop. 5 passed. Michigan Public Radio recently offered three possible explanations:
1) Gas taxes: The Morouns, along with owning the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit with Windsor, also control a sprawling trucking empire. If gas taxes go up — something Gov. Snyder is considering as a way to address the problem of crumbling highways — maintaining profit margins becomes more difficult. (However, the Morouns are more shielded against this than others; because the diesel pumps at its Gateway Plaza are in a duty-free zone, all the trucks using it avoid paying taxes on the fuel.) Besides, bad roads aren't exactly good news for any tucking company.
2) Another theory is that the Morouns wanted help getting their Prop. 6 passed (more on that later), so they turned to the conservative nonprofit Michigan Alliance for Prosperity (MAP) — which is associated with the arch-conservative, tax- and regulation-hating billionaire Koch bothers — for a little mutual back-scratching. The Morouns cough up millions to get the signatures needed to get Prop. 6 on the ballot, and MAP gets this truly crazy proposal on as well.
3) There's also the notion that helping get the Tea Partiers to turn out in force for an anti-tax measure would also help get Prop. 6 passed as well.
Who know? Maybe it's some of all three.
What's not in question is how monumentally disastrous of an idea it is to let a minority of legislators hold veto power over any tax increase. If this scheme were to become part of the state constitution, just 13 members of the state Senate could ensure complete gridlock in Lansing.
If anyone is at all in doubt regarding what folly this is, just take a look at how far California has fallen since a similar plan was enacted there.
Roger Martin, a spokesman for the Defend Michigan Democracy group that's opposing this has said elsewhere:
"This is Trojan horse public policy. It looks really good on the surface, but if you just take for a moment and think about its consequences, this is just not good public policy for a state that's on the economic rebound, that's trying to figure out a way to reinvest in its infrastructure, trying to put people back to work. This is a recipe for disaster."
Which is why groups as disparate as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Education Association are opposed to it.
In this time of extreme political polarization, Matty Moroun, the Koch brothers, and the Michigan Alliance for Progress have succeeded in doing the near-impossible by garnering support from all parts of the political spectrum to oppose Prop. 5.
We urge you to vote no.
Regarding construction of international bridges
This is a proposal to amend the state constitution so that a statewide public vote would be required before any "new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles" could be constructed.
If your knowledge of this issue is based primarily on the omnipresent television ads and mailers being pumped out by a front group calling itself "The People Should Decide," then much of what you know is untrue.
There's only one reason this proposal is on the ballot: Manuel "Matty" Moroun and his family, owners of the Ambassador Bridge, don't want competition from a publicly owned bridge that the Canadians and Gov. Snyder (like his predecessors) want to build in the Delray area of Detroit.
To stop that from happening, the Morouns are willing to say anything, and to spend whatever it takes.
And it is taking a lot. According to the most recent reports, more than $31 million has been spent on the campaign intended to block construction of the new span.
That should give you some idea of just how lucrative the family's near-monopoly on commercial truck traffic crossing the Detroit River is.
After its campaign contributions and lobbying succeeded in keeping the proposal to build what's now being called the New International Trade Crossing from moving through the Legislature, the Canadians offered to pay Michigan's up-front construction costs — about $550 million — with repayment coming from the tolls paid by users. That allowed Gov. Snyder to sidestep legislative approval, because no state money was being spent.
The Morouns countered by paying to put this proposal on the ballot.
There's only one hitch to their plan: There's no good reason for Michigan residents to oppose the project. No state money is gong toward the project. In fact, that $550 million form the Canadians can apparently be used to leverage about $2 billion in federal funding that can be used to repair the state's crumbling roads and bridges.
So, from strictly that point alone, this is an incredible deal for the state and its taxpayers.
The only way it's not good is if you happen to own the most important international trade crossing in North America, and don't want to lose the control you have.
And so, the lies have been spewing forth. The Truth Squad has been flagging one ad after another for what they call "fouls" — and the rest of us call lies. Like the statement that construction of a publicly owned bridge will result in police and firefighters and teachers losing their jobs. Or that our children will be left to pay off some massive (albeit fictitious) debt we are incurring.
From business leaders to organized labor to L. Brooks Patterson, the Republican executive in affluent Oakland County, to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, there is near-unanimous official support for the new bridge.
It is only the Morouns and the people on their payroll who want to stop the project.
And they are counting on the state's voters to be gullible or ignorant enough to buy their propaganda and vote in favor of this proposal.
If something were to happen to the Ambassador Bridge, which was built in the 1920s and is wearing out, Michigan's economy would be crippled.
The risk of not having a second bridge is simply too great. And the risk to Michigan taxpayers of going ahead and building a publicly owned span, by all accounts (except those provided by the Morouns) is nonexistent.
It will be a dark day indeed, for the state and for democracy, if one family's wealth and greed and cynical machinations are enough to prevent an entire state from doing what is so obviously in the best interests of Michigan and its residents.
Don't let the Morouns get away with it.
Vote no on Proposal 6.
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