Designate new tax to fill holes and gaps

Did you pay your use tax this year when you filed your state tax return?

Crunch the numbers on all that sales tax you didn’t pay on your novelty woolen socks or specialty throw pillows from a specialized website in a far-off place, and send it to the state?

Nobody did.

But everybody now will pay their 6 percent sales tax for every online purchase from out-of-state retailers that do $100,000 in sales or 200-plus transactions in Michigan.

Michigan’s Treasury Department says this will bring in $203 million in its first year and close to $250 million in 2021.

The change becomes official Oct. 1, leaving just one more question: what will our legislators do with all our new money?

The bickering already has begun. It’s a tug of war with heavyweight issues on either side: roads versus schools.

Both desperately need work.

Our pockmarked and potholed roads are experienced every day on our commutes. But it’s the deteriorating infrastructure we don’t see that eventually becomes a grave safety issue.

We also see the numbers in the gaps in our school system, and in our poor performance compared to other states in our nation. The per-pupil fund allowance for Traverse City Area Public Schools for the 2017-18 school year was at $7,631 compared to the basic allowance of $8,289, depriving the 10,000-student district of more than $6.5 million, officials said, and the general state of our education system . needs fixing.

Proponents of each say they’re entitled to the money for different reasons. Why not share it? Come to a practical agreement and designate a way forward.

Entitlement bickering only stalls the process … and if it stalls too long, that money could end up in a general fund. We all know what happens when our tax return spends too long in our checking accounts — it drips and drabs into the day-to-day overruns until it finally disappears, leaving the big projects undone.

Infrastructure and education proponents need to come up with a solution so we the people of this state can realize the benefit in both of these high-need areas.

This — our hard-earned taxpayer dollars — is new money for the state and needs to be used to solve the state’s more pressing problems.

We know this is subjective territory. But we also know that our legislature needs to keep the money out of entitlement squabbling, out of the general fund and liquid enough to fill the gaps — be they in the roads or in the schools or elsewhere.