GR road tax extension passes


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Voters Tuesday passed a measure to extend Grand Rapids’ temporary income tax to pay for road repairs.

The ballot question passed with 66% of the vote during Tuesday’s special election. That’s 12,068 yes votes. 6,123 people voted no.

The tax will raise nearly $10 million per year until 2030 from people who both live and work in the city. That money will go to pay for road repair and sidewalk maintenance.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom said drivers will start seeing the impact of the funding next year.

Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom speaks after a measure to fund street repair in the city passes. (May 6, 2014)
(Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom speaks after a measure to fund street repair in the city passes. May 6, 2014)

“In the interim, we will be doing a lot of preventative maintenance, trying to save those streets that are still savable, and a lot of design work so that next season we will hit the road — pun intended — with construction all over the city,” Sundstrom said.

As a tradeoff, the city will immediately stop requiring residents pay to maintain the sidewalk in front of their home.

Voters initially approved the income tax in 2010 to pay for programs to increase city efficiency.

Under the tax extension, people who live in the city will continue to pay $2 for every $1,000 of taxable income. People who live outside by work in the city will continue to pay $1 for every $1,000 of taxable income.

Supporters proposed an income tax because both residents and commuters use city streets. The Grand Rapids Taxpayers Association, which opposes the extension, claimed that’s taxation without representation because thousands who would pay the tax did not get to vote on it.

State law does not allow votes outside a given political boundary.

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As of mid-afternoon, city turnout for the election was at 9%. Voter turnout for the May 2010 special election was 15.6%. That was the election in which the income tax up for extension was initially approved.

Low turnout is often good news for supporters of a ballot measures. Groups who want to win voters’ approval of a given issue tend to target special election dates, rather than primary and general elections, because often theirs would be the only issue on the ballot and it wouldn’t generate a lot of voter interest. Supporters generally get out to vote, while those who might normally oppose an issue stay home.

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