Dianda speaks on Proposal 1

HANCOCK- The May 5 Michigan general election includes a proposal to change the way road repair and maintenance in Michigan is funded, and State Rep. Scott Dianda was in Hancock Saturday to explain the issue.

Dianda, D-Calumet, spoke about Proposal 1 at the annual meeting of the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country at the Ramada Inn.

Although as an elected official he can’t take a position for or against a ballot initiative once it’s placed before the voters, Dianda said he thinks the issue of road funding is something the Legislature should address, so he was one of about 12 legislators who voted against making it a ballot proposal.

“I felt it was our duty to deal with this issue in the House and Senate,” he said.

Dianda said neither separate House and Senate versions of the ballot proposal were passed, so a compromise version was created and passed on to Gov. Rick Snyder to sign, and that version is what voters will see on the ballot.

He and other legislators and the governor are taking time to let voters know what Proposal 1 is about.

“We’re trying to get this information out to the people in a neutral fashion,” he said.

Proposal 1 asks voters if the current 6 percent state sales tax should be increased to 7 percent; if the current sales tax on gasoline and diesel fuel should be eliminated; if use-tax funding portion to schools should be increased, and if School Aid Funding should be expanded to community colleges and technical schools.

If approved, Dianda said Proposal 1 will require increased competitive bidding for road projects, and will require warranties from contractors for road projects. It will also increase the state earned income tax credit.

Dianda said if voters approve Proposal 1 legislators will have more work ahead of them to implement it.

“There’s going to be 10 different bills that will have to be passed and sent to the governor,” he said.

One of those bills will deal with funding for schools, Dianda said. Currently the sales tax on fuel goes to state schools. With the elimination of that tax, another school funding method will have to be found.

Dianda said if Proposal 1 passes, it will be four years before all the money raised by it will actually be used for road work because it will be used to pay down the state’s debt. The first year, $800 million out of an expected $1.2 billion will be used for the debt. In the second year, $600 million and in the third year $300 million will be put toward the debt.

“After that, the total amount will be paid into the road package,” he said.

During a question and answer period after he spoke, Dianda responded to a question about what will happen if the 10 required bills to implement it don’t pass. He said he’s certain that won’t be an issue.

“There’s that understanding this is the will of the people,” he said.

Asked what will happen if Proposal 1 fails, Dianda said the legislators will have to come up with something to fund road work in the state.

“We do have the opportunity to have another bill package,” he said. “(Road funding and schools) are going to have to be dealt with immediately.”

In response to a question about why so much of the money raised from the possible passage of Proposal 1 has to be used for paying down the state debt, Dianda said getting rid of the debt will help the state’s economy.

“A lot of people feel we have to pay that off,” he said. “I’m one who thinks that has to be done with.”