The Michigan Legislature formed a state commission last year to “review” whether the state has adhered to a Michigan Constitutional Amendment which provided the last, “best” tax reform, the Headlee Amendment. To no one’s surprise, the requirement to fully fund state-issued mandates has been virtually ignored since its institution in 1978. Even if “the process” was necessary to provide the evidence of what everyone already knew, one has to beg for the point of it. Even with the evidence there is no plan of prosecution or remedy.
While more than 35 local governmental units represented by the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council cry foul, each of them is hurriedly passing the pain of budget deficits to taxpayers in an array of new taxes or “service fees.” The most obvious come from the city of Grand Rapids in its push to bill taxpayers for street lights… and likely a list of other “services” its taxpayers “have taken for granted.” The proposal was put before the city commission one week after voters narrowly approved an income tax increase from 1.3 percent to 1.5 percent for city resident and from 0.65 percent to 0.75 percent for nonresidents who work in the city. Further, the business community can expect to see new fees “that cover the city’s costs” of providing business-specific services, even while most of those “services” are required by the city regulations.
A new standard in double taxation is set with the city’s “sale” of a parking ramp to the city parking commission. And the taxpayers who paid for the ramp and continue to pay for the ramp also pay parking fees to use their ramps.
The pattern is not unique in the country; it is more of the same. Last week’s elections are surely indicative of the growing frustration across the country from an electorate left with no alternative but to dump incumbents. It will be no different in Michigan in August as primary elections are held — at every level of government. Despite the best efforts of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and its initiatives brought by its 2008 regional policy conference, no one on the state level listened, let alone acted. Business Leaders for Michigan formed of the same frustrations on the east side of the state, and still they have not been heard at the legislative level. Gubernatorial candidates offer little hope as they continue to “tell,” rather than listen.
Every creative solution is met with the roadblock that is the legislature, including the means to create a uni-government of multiple entities, as is most notable in Allegan County.
While business owners attempt to hold down their lunch, the games continued on the federal level last week when a Texas congressman held up the much needed federal Manufacturing Extension Partnership funding because he was upset about paying a few employees who watched inappropriate media on their computers (see the story on page 1). The Business Journal asks, if the funding is withheld from hundreds of businesses for the antics of few federal employees, who are you really punishing?
Business owners have zero tolerance for continuation of the legislative games and paralysis or for the same-old formulas at city hall. “Leaders” have two months to get it right.