What are you doing Aug. 5? And Nov. 4? I don't know everything I will be doing those days but I do know I will be voting. I also know that I need to spend time researching ballot proposals and candidates before I head to the voting booth.
It can be tricky to make the right decision without any prior knowledge of the issues or candidates. Consider the Aug. 5 primary election as an example. There will be a ballot proposal concerning the elimination of personal property tax. When you vote in the primary election on Aug. 5, you will see the following language on the ballot:
"Approval or disapproval of amendatory act to reduce state use tax and replace with a local community stabilization share to modernize the tax system to help small business grow and create jobs."
The Amendatory act adopted by the legislature would:
* Reduce the state use tax and replace with a local community stabilization share of the tax for the purpose of modernizing the tax system to help small business grow and create jobs in Michigan.
* Require Local Community Stabilization Authority to provide revenue to local governments dedicated for local purposes, including police safety, fire protection and ambulance emergency services.
* Increase a portion of state use tax dedicated for aid to local school districts.
* Prohibit Authority from increasing taxes.
* Prohibit total use tax rate from exceeding constitutional 6 percent limitation.
If you knew nothing of this topic before entering the voting booth, what would that sound like? First of all, if you even got through the text without your eyes glazing over and your mind wandering to something else, you might think it sounds like a bad thing. Replace the state use tax with a local community stabilization share? What is a Local Community Stabilization Authority? Increase a portion of the state use tax? What does all of this mean?
Other parts of the amendment sound very positive. Prohibit the use tax rate from exceeding 6 percent.
Provide revenue to local governments for emergency services. Grow small businesses and create jobs. That sounds great.
It's confusing, isn't it? How would you vote on this if you knew nothing about it other than what the ballot language states?
Like many issues on the ballot, this particular amendment is kind of tricky. For that reason, going in to the voting booth with a full understanding of what you will find is important.
Passing this ballot proposal is a very positive move for Michigan. It is the final step to eliminate personal property tax. Personal property tax is a tax that all businesses in Michigan pay annually on every piece of equipment they own. Not only do they pay the sales tax when they purchase the equipment, but they also pay a tax on the equipment every year they own it.
Imagine if you had to pay personal property tax. In addition to the 6 percent tax you paid when you made a purchase, you would pay additional tax every year that you still owned that item. It would be frustrating, wouldn't it?
That's what businesses have been doing for a very long time. This is a unique tax to Michigan businesses and puts our state at a disadvantage. This amendment would eliminate that tax for small businesses and phase it out over time for larger businesses, while at the same time replacing the lost tax revenue to local communities. And all without raising taxes. It is truly a winning situation for everyone.
But you might not know that by reading the ballot language. You might be inclined not to vote on that issue at all. Or you might vote no because when in doubt, that seems to be the safer move. But this ballot proposal really deserves a yes vote.
Voting can be a tricky thing. No matter which way you approach it, I hope all voters have one thing in common - responsibility. It is our right to vote. But with that comes the expectation that we are responsible in our decision making practices by researching issues and candidates.
As the personal property issue on the Aug. 5 ballot demonstrates, researching before casting your vote is incredibly important. It's our future, and your researched, knowledgeable vote matters.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.