Politics — May 6, 2015 at 10:41 am

Two Ways Prop 1 Went Wrong


Blame politicians, not the voters, for Prop 1’s failure

I want to be clear that, like the other authors on this site, I voted for Prop 1 and am disappointed that it failed. We need to fix the roads. I think increasing the gas tax is an appropriate way to pay for that. And Michigan’s low-income workers lose out without the restoration of the earned income tax credit. But I’m not surprised it failed. Here’s why:

1) Politicians put a legislative compromise on the ballot instead of a measure designed to succeed

If you want the voters to pass a tax increase on the ballot, you design the language with that in mind. Maybe you test a few different ideas in a poll and put the successful ones into carefully crafted ballot language. That’s not what happened here. Instead, the legislature worked out a compromise designed to keep all the Democrats on board and get as many Republicans votes as possible in the legislature. Then when it turned out they didn’t have their act together to pass it, they just punted and tossed the compromise language on the ballot. But the grab-bag of different stuff designed to get legislative votes is confusing and off-putting for regular voters.

2) Communications told voters “it’s a bad idea but vote for it anyway”

The mail I got said “Take another look at Proposal 1” (in other words, “it’s not THAT bad”). We got the message that “if you don’t pass this what the legislature does will be worse.” We got explanations of the legislative compromise. But I saw almost nothing making the case the Prop 1 was objectively a good idea (except Chris making the case that it was the progressive choice). The Governor was nowhere to be seen. How can we expect people to vote for something being sold so unenthusiastically?

Many local millages passed last night; it wasn’t an anti-tax bloodbath. But Prop 1 was never set up for success.