Want Good Roads, Schools and Government? Raise Taxes, Expert Says

Michigan is at its lowest level of taxation in 50 years, says a Michigan State University economist. But citizens may still not trust government with tax money.

Funding for schools, roads and many other state services took a hit during this year’s budget negotiations at the state Capitol. The governor and legislators have been wrangling over how to apportion the state’s revenue among competing priorities. 

But what if we decided to make the revenue pie bigger so the competition among things we care about could be less brutal?

Michigan State University Professor of Economics Ronald Fisher writes in Bridge Magazine that if we want to fix our infrastructure, schools, local governments, and all the other broken things in our state, we probably have to raise taxes.

“Tax rates in Michigan are relatively low and for some time they’ve been falling,”  says Fisher on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson. “We are at the lowest level of taxation in 50 years.”

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

John Sellek is president and CEO of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs and worked for Michigan attorneys general Mike Cox and Bill Schuette, Gov. John Engler, and as a staffer in the Michigan Legislature.

He says, while that might well be the case, the problem is convincing Michiganders that public officials will spend that money on things that matter to them.

“It may be true that taxation is lower than it used to be, but that’s not generally how people feel,” says Sellek. “What I see, what my observations are, is that they don’t trust government, they just don’t trust that it’s going to get the job done.”

Click on the player above to hear MSU economist Ronald Fisher and Republican strategist John Sellek discuss whether it’s time to raise taxes in Michigan on Detroit Today.


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