On Thursday, the state Board of Canvassers approved the form of three more citizen-driven initiatives that could appear on the November 2016 ballot. With the three new petitions,there could be a total of eight groups in the field collecting signatures for ballot proposals.
The three latest proposals are:
■ The Earned Sick Time Act would require employers to allow employees to earn sick time to deal with health, personal or family issues. Employees of small businesses could earn 1 hour for every 30 worked up to 40 hours of paid sick leave a year. All other employees would earn 1 hour for every 30 worked up to 72 hours in a year.
The Legislature passed a law earlier this year that prohibits communities from passing ordinances that dictate wages and benefits, such as paid sick leave, for employers in their towns. The citizen-initiated proposal is the response to that law.
■ Corporate Fair Share Taxes Act would increase the state’s corporate income tax from 6% to 11% and earmark that money towards fixing Michigan’s roads.
After voters defeated Proposal 1 on May 5 that would have raised the sales tax, in part, to fix Michigan’s roads, the Legislature has been unable to come up with a solution for the state’s crumbling infrastructure. Democrats in the House have proposed raising the corporate income tax from 6% to 9% to raise money for roads, but Republicans have said that proposal is a non-starter. Senate Republicans have proposed raising the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon over three years to raise money for roads, but the House hasn’t taken a vote on the proposal yet.
■ Let’s Vote, Michigan, would amend the state constitution to establish voting by mail for all Michigan elections. Three states – Oregon, Colorado and Washington – have vote-by-mail options.
In the first two proposals, groups organizing the petition drives would have to gather at least 252,523 valid signatures to put the issue to the Legislature, which could either vote to approve the initiative and it would immediately become law, or the Legislature could offer an alternative or do nothing and the matters would go to the statewide ballot for voters to decide. The vote-by-mail initiative is a constitutional amendment, that requires at least 315,654 valid signatures and would go straight to the ballot.
The business tax hike for roads is the most controversial and attracted a big crowd to the canvassers meeting. The initiative is being led by unions representing carpenters, laborers and operating engineers.
Tom Lutz, a carpenters’ union official and spokesman for Citizen for Fair Taxes, said people will be out in the field quickly to begin gathering signatures. And it will go forward no matter what the Legislature does with trying to find a solution for roads.
“It really doesn’t matter what they do. This would be the fairest way that we’ve provided,” he said. “This gives back approximately half of the $2 billion tax break that corporations got.”
But Tricia Kinley, of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said the proposal was dangerous and reckless.
“These would have devastating consequences to Michigan’s job providers and economy,” she said. “And the irony is that these union carpenters and engineers – The people who actually employ them would suffer huge consequences by doubling their taxes.”
The Coalition Against Higher Taxes, which fought the May 5 Proposal 1 ballot initiative, is continuing its advocacy against the business tax hike for roads proposal.
“Anyone who believes a 5% increase in the corporate income tax isn’t going to get passed along to the middle class and consumers is fooling themselves,” said Randall Thompson, spokesman for the coalition.
The Board of Canvassers has already approved the form of five other citizen initiatives that would have to go the Legislature first if the 252,523 valid signatures are approved.
Those initiatives include: two proposals that would legalize and regulate the use, manufacture and sale of marijuana for both medical and recreational use; a measure that would ban the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state; a repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws, which require that union-scale wages be paid on public construction projects; and a proposal to prohibit health providers from charging different prices for the same services or medical goods.
The organizers of the proposals are given 180 days to collect the needed signatures before the Canvassers rule on the validity of the petitions.
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal.