Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Heads up! Property Tax Raisers want to change Michigan's Constitution and eliminate safeguards

Not all of this is bad, but most of it certainly is. The stuff is supposed to be on the Citizens for Michigan website, but the details nor board of directors there could come up.


From MIRS via Saul Anuzis

Term Limits Among Constitutional Changes Pitched
With Michigan voters facing a choice in 2010 on whether to call for a Constitutional Convention, a group of private citizens and public officials have come out with a bi-partisan series of recommendations on how the state's existing constitution could be improved upon.

The most controversial of the recommendations is a suggestion to change the state's 1992 voter-approved term limits to apply a 12-year limit to the House, Senate and the Governor as well as the Secretary of State and the Attorney General.

"Let's talk about the real world," said John HERTEL. "I cannot imagine Mike ILLITCH, after the third Stanley Cup, walking into the locker room and saying 'Well, you're all out of here.'"


I am against term limits in general for one major reason. It ends 2 and 4 year lame ducks. We can thank lame duck cavers for the "fee" increases at the end of 2004. They no longer had to face the people.

The group also argued that it's far too easy for outside groups to try out new ideas in Michigan because the petition signature threshold for constitutional amendments is too low. They noted that Michigan is one of three states with large populations (more than 7.5 million) that allow a constitutional amendment to be placed before voters with a 5 percent signature requirement.

The net result — well-funded groups come in from out-of-state and try to implement government changes. An example was this year's Stop Overspending (SOS) campaign.

One possible solution is requiring voter-initiated constitutional amendments to be approved in back-to-back general elections, which is something the state of Massachusetts has done.

Former Attorney General Frank KELLEY noted that some of the motives behind some suggested amendments and initiated laws aren't pure.

"A lot of these politically noble ideas are thought up by scumbags," Kelley remarked.


I'm still waiting for the solution plan here. The cure can't be worse than the disease. If Frank Kelley's name is on it, I'm watching my back.


Other recommendations include:

- Eliminating the state Natural Resources and the Agriculture commissions and allowing the governor to appoint her entire cabinet


There needs to be checks and balances.


- Allowing the governor to appoint members of the State Board of Education and the governing boards of the state's three largest universities, subject to advice and consent of the State Senate and a partisan balance. Currently, members of the State Board of Education, regents of the University of Michigan, trustees of Michigan State University and governors of Wayne State University are elected.


One of the main problems with these boards is the nomination process. Conventions pick the nominees, not primaries. That eliminates the choices (with some exceptions like outgoing trustee Porteous - a bad loss to MSU) to political hacks with famous names. We got George Perles replacing Porteous - and he helped put MSU on probation.

One thing that could happen with a primary race - is that these trustees can become more active. I'd like to see (MSU mostly since I'm alum) the plans of our trustees for the school - something besides generalities.

- Allow the governor to appoint Supreme Court Justices to a single 10-year term with partisan balance on the high court


No way. With the way judges affect our lives nowadays, taking away the people's say in the matter is not an acceptable option. There's no recourse for the Stephen Reinhardts of the world on the federal level outside of impeachment.

- Levy an additional statewide mill to fund school district building programs that over time would reduce bonding mills at the local level


WTF? No way. I'd like to see some fiscal responsibility first instead of the continous buck passing that goes on in these school districts.

- Eliminate super-majority voting requirements spelled out in the constitution. Banking code amendments were one example of voting requirements.


Why were they there in the first place?

- Eliminate restrictions on local taxation, particularly for transportation


Mo money. How about some fiscal responsibility so we don't have the runaway millages like we did before Headlee and before Prop A?

- Eliminate the Headlee rollback provision in Article IX, Section 31


Now HERE'S the meat and potatoes of the matter. This is what they are after.

§31 Levying tax or increasing rate of existing tax; maximum tax rate on new
base; increase in assessed valuation of property; exceptions to limitations.
Sec. 31. Units of Local Government are hereby prohibited from levying any tax not
authorized by law or charter when this section is ratified or from increasing the rate of an existing tax above that rate authorized by law or charter when this section is ratified, without the approval of a majority of the qualified electors of that unit of Local Government voting thereon. If the definition of the base of an existing tax is broadened, the maximum authorized rate of taxation on the new base in each unit of Local Government shall be reduced to yield the same estimated gross revenue as on the prior base. If the assessed valuation of property as finally equalized, excluding the value of new construction and improvements, increases by a
larger percentage than the increase in the General Price Level from the previous year, the maximum authorized rate applied thereto in each unit of Local Government shall be reduced to yield the same gross revenue from existing property, adjusted for changes in the General Price Level, as could have been collected at the existing authorized rate on the prior assessed value. The limitations of this section shall not apply to taxes imposed for the payment of principal and interest on bonds or other evidence of indebtedness or for the payment of assessments on contract obligations in anticipation of which bonds are issued which were authorized prior to
the effective date of this amendment. History: Add. Init., approved Nov. 7, 1978, Eff. Dec. 23, 1978.


They want to raise our property taxes.


- Eliminate the ability of non-Michiganders to gather signatures to amend Michigan's constitution, or at least require back-to-back general election voter approval in order to amend the state constitute as is required in other states


I'd rather eliminate out of state money.

- Alter language regarding local elected official recalls so that the only reason for recall would be malfeasance or misfeasance


Is the recall system broke? How often are there successful recalls anyway?

- Allow the governor the option of a "pocket-veto"


We don't need to give the executive more powers. We have the veto system and override. That's good enough.

Rick SIMONSON, who served as secretary for the group, said that twice Michigan voters have been faced with the ballot question of whether to hold a constitutional convention without any information.

"Michigan voters have been faced with this question twice before without any real information," Simonson said. "Our goal was to prepare a set of potential issues, possible solutions, and then to get out of the way and let the people and their elected officials decide what to do."


There's a reason why we do not have a lot of constitutional conventions. People are rightly suspicious when it comes to changing it. I really would not want to see the elimination of Headlee or the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, ex post facto laws, or tax safeguards in this state. They were enacted for a reason.


Some of the names whose input into the recommendations put forward by Citizens for Michigan read much like a who's who among Michigan political circles. Advisors included: John AXE, an expert in municipal finance and an instructor at Wayne State University School of Law; Madge BERMAN; former Sen. Dan DeGROW; David DIEGEL; Debbie DINGELL; Robert ELEVELD; former Sen. Harry GAST; Hertel; former House Speaker Paul HILLEGONDS; former Rep. Mick MIDDAUGH; Shelley PADNOS; Harriet ROTTER; Harold SCHUITMAKER; U.S. Rep. Joe SCHWARZ (R-Battle Creek); Phil POWER and former U.S. Rep. Paul TODD.


It looks like a list of liberal republicans (Schwarz, Gast) and democrats. Anyone in Livingston County is well aware of Phil Power (former Argus owner) and his economic liberalism. Joe Schwarz ran on raising taxes in his gubenatorial race in 2002. The 7th District had enough of him and showed him the door. Gast was a longtime Schwarz ally in the state senate. DeGrow was always a little squishy. Hertel, Power, and Dingell are long time democrats.

Overall, I see a lot of pro-tax measures in this plan, as well as safeguards for incumbents who raise taxes as protection. I think it's a shot at getting rid of Headlee and the other safeguards against runaway spending and tax increases. This is what I suspected would happen after seeing the long list of establishment types like Hertel, Schwarz, and Power leading the pack.

I dread what the rest of the committee's recommended changes are. We all need to keep an eye on this one.

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