News Story

Grass Roots Tax Group Helps Defeat Big Metro Transit Tax

Anti-tax group outspent $3.4 million to $54k

Southeast Michigan voters shot down a $4.6 billion, 20-year mass transit plan for the Metro Detroit region, largely thanks to grass roots opposition to the proposal.

The ballot measure, which would have imposed a 1.2-mill property tax increase on property owners in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties, was defeated by 912,033 to 893,798 according to MLive. (The only precinct without 100 percent of votes reported is in Wayne County with 99.9 percent reported.)

No Massive Transit Tax, a group opposed to the Regional Transit Authority’s plan, spent $53,751, according to campaign finance reports. Citizens for Connecting Our Communities, which favored the proposal, spent $3.4 million.

“It’s a grass roots victory that is inconceivable,” said Leon Drolet, treasurer of the anti-tax group.

A majority of voters in Wayne and Washtenaw counties favored the proposal, while a majority of voters in Oakland and Macomb counties opposed it.

Paul Hillegonds, chairman of the RTA, and Michael Ford, its CEO, said in a statement that the lack of a transit system will continue to hamper economic development in the region.

“The extremely narrow defeat of the proposed millage for regional transit is a deeply disappointing setback for efforts to create a modern transit system that would position southeast Michigan to be a stronger competitor in the 21st Century both nationally and internationally,” they said.

“It leaves southeast Michigan as the only large region in the nation (and one of a few in the world) without a functioning regional rapid transit system,” Hillegonds and Ford added. “That means residents still will lack a convenient transit connection to jobs, communities will remain unconnected to one another, economic development will be more difficult and seniors and people with disabilities will lack the greater independence a fully functional transit system would provide.” 

Officials with the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration previously said they did not review funding assumptions for the transit tax proposal.

A report by Oakland County pointed out “numerous financial flaws” in the plan and said that the budgetary approach used by the plan was “overly simplistic, erroneous and demonstrates the lack of understanding by the RTA administration of the Michigan property tax statutes.”