Poll Finds Most Michiganders Want a Graduated Income Tax

Bill introduced by Rep. Jim Townsend would institute tax equality in Michigan
Friday, May 8, 2015

LANSING – A new poll of active Michigan voters found widespread support of a graduated state income tax. The findings indicate that voters would likely support the efforts of Rep. Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak), who has introduced House Bill 4341 and House Joint Resolution K, which would replace Michigan’s flat tax with a graduated income tax.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, residents support our plan for tax equality, which would cut taxes for 95 percent of Michiganders and increase revenue by $560 to $760 million per year by asking the top 1 percent to pay their fair share,” said Townsend, who is also the Democratic vice chairman of the House Committee on Tax Policy. “Michiganders are ready for tax equality. They’re ready to ask the top 1 percent to pay their fair share and disrupt that group’s special deal.”

Townsend’s proposals would require voters to approve replacing the current flat income tax of 4.25 percent with a graduated tax that would bring lower tax bills to working families. The poll found that 66 percent of Michigan voters would vote yes or lean toward voting yes on the plan, and that it would be supported by a majority of Democratic voters (82 percent), independent voters (63 percent) and Republican voters (52 percent). Among voters who identified themselves as Tea Party supporters, 49 percent would say “yes” to the plan. Support was also found statewide, from a minimum of 61 percent in Western Michigan to a high of 82 percent in Northern Michigan. The plan found approval from 66 percent of Wayne County residents surveyed, 63 percent of Oakland County residents and 62 percent of those in Macomb County.

If enacted, the proposal would not only result in lower taxes for families with income less than $160,000 in taxable income, but would also shore up state revenues by as much as $760 million a year. State revenues have been hard-hit by runaway tax breaks for major corporations, which are expected to cost the state as much as $9.4 billion over the next 20 years. Limited state funds have thwarted efforts to improve schools around the state or repair crumbling roads, and voters soundly rejected Proposal 1 on May 5, which would have required Michiganders to pay more taxes in order to fix the roads.

“I understand the frustration expressed by many residents last Tuesday,” said Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park), who supports the graduated tax. “Proposal 1 was a clear repudiation from voters all across the political spectrum. Middle-class Michiganders are fed up because their wages have declined, and they know it’s not right that they were asked to pay to fix the roads, especially when the wealthiest aren’t paying their fair share.”

After years of being asked to contribute more, working families are ready for tax fairness, said Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), a co-sponsor of the graduated income tax plan. “Michiganders are frustrated that Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature continue to take more from the pockets of low- and middle-income families to pay for massive tax breaks for wealthier residents,” Irwin said. “Michigan now relies more than almost every other state on our poorest citizens to pay for our schools and roads.”