LANSING (WWJ/AP) – The Board of State Canvassers set the wording Thursday of a ballot proposal that will ask voters whether they want to increase the state sales tax and raise $1.3 billion a year more for transportation infrastructure.

Voters will decide in the May 5 special election whether to approve an amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

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The amendment would increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to “replace and supplement” revenue to the school aid fund and local governments that was reduced by the elimination of the sales tax on gas and diesel fuel. The summary of the ballot proposal also says it’ll revise permissible uses of the school aid fund and trigger laws that include increasing the gas tax and dedicating revenue for roads.

State Elections Director Chris Thomas had the task of drafting language that would briefly, accurately and without bias describe the constitutional amendment and the accompanying 10 laws its approval would put into effect — a task many commenters during Thursday’s meeting said was nearly impossible.

Thomas issued draft language last week, and proposed a revision Wednesday after reading submitted comments. In Thursday’s board meeting, he added the “and supplement” words to the description before it was approved by a 3-1 vote.

Here’s how the May 5 ballot will read:

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A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Eliminate sales/use taxes on gasoline/diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.
  • Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).
  • Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career/technical education, and
  • prohibit use for 4-year colleges/universities.
  • Give effect to laws, including those that:
  • Increase sales/use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment.
  • Increase gasoline/diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation,
  • increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes.
  • Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.
  • Increase earned income tax credit.

Should this proposal be adopted?

Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group, said since the proposal would lead to an increase in the money available for K-12 schools and local governments by more than $600 million in the first year and more in following years, the “and supplement” addition to the language would be clearer. Several other commenters urged support of that amendment to give voters a better idea of what the proposal would do.

Norman Shinkle, a Republican, was the only board member to vote against approval, saying he would have liked the ballot measure’s first line to point out that it would raise the sales tax. The summary includes that information further down.

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