Media, Voters, Draw on Mackinac Information on Prop 1

Proposal 1’s defeat on May 5 was historic. No ballot proposal offered under Michigan’s current constitution, enacted in 1963, was defeated so soundly. For every one person who said “yes,” four said “no.”

I hope that this clear decision is due to voters knowing what was in the proposal and not simply a gut reaction in the ballot box. We made it easy for people to understand the question before them with a plain-language description of what the proposal did, what it would cost, and what it attempted to do. It is not our role to tell people how to vote, but it is our duty to answer the questions that citizens have about a proposal.

So we informed people that the increased sales and fuel taxes would cost the average household roughly $500 annually — and that the new fuel tax had errors that ensured its rates would increase above inflation. We laid out where our policymakers were going to spend the money from this tax increase.

No one else in Michigan seemed to care much about providing that kind of information. News reports rarely listed the price tag of the proposal. 

I spoke to Republican, Tea Party, and even a chamber group about what was in Proposal 1. Media interest remained high throughout the months running up to the vote, and our work was covered by radio stations across the state, TV stations in Flint and Traverse City, and all of the major newspapers. Even The Wall Street Journal covered our work on the proposal.

I hope that our work meant that when voters rejected the proposal, they understood the consequences of the proposal.

It is now up to the Legislature to interpret the message the people sent with a vote of such a large margin. And it seems clear: Voters care about the roads but would rather the state re-examine its own spending practices before asking taxpayers to re-examine theirs.