Michigan ballot measure fight attracts more than $8 million

9 things to know about the money behind the May 5 tax raising measure

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Michigan voters will decide on Tuesday whether the state should raise its sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to pay for repairs for the state’s roads and bridges.

The measure has attracted more than $8 million, with the construction industry and unions backing the "yes" side and anti-tax advocates fighting it. It’s not uncommon for ballot measures to be expensive endeavors dominated by deep-pocketed parties who stand to reap financial benefits from the outcome.

In this case, the ballot measure is expected to raise an additional $1.2 billion annually for road and bridge improvements, as well as about $600 million more per year for schools, local governments and public transit. It would also eliminate the state’s sales tax on gasoline while creating new fees for electric and hybrid cars.

It also has caused a split among some conservatives in the state. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder supports the measure, as do several local chambers of commerce. But some of the opponents are prominent members of the GOP.

Here are nine things to know about the money behind the measure:

  • Safe Roads Yes has reported raising more than $8 million, including at least $5 million from the construction trade group Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, according to state records.
  • Other major backers include electric company ITC Holdings Corp. and a new nonprofit called Michigan Energy First, which have each given $250,000 to the group.
  • Five political committees oppose Michigan’s measure, including one funded primarily by 2014 GOP congressional candidate Paul Mitchell, state records show.
  • Donating more than $420,000, Saginaw businessman Paul Mitchell is the top contributor to opposition of Michigan's ballot measure.
  • Even though Gov. Rick Snyder supports the measure, one of his longtime political advisers spent $10,000 opposing it, state records show.
  • Nearly 70 percent of the $7.2 million that Safe Roads Yes has reported spending so far has gone to WWP Strategies, a Michigan-based media consultancy that has worked on several GOP campaigns.
  • The estimated $1.5 million spent so far on TV ads about Michigan’s ballot measure is less than the $2.1 million and $2.8 million spent for the state’s two ballot measures in 2014.
  • The Safe Roads Yes committee has aired TV ads supporting Michigan’s proposal nearly 4,000 times for an estimated cost of $1.5 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
  • Ads have been airing all over the state in favor of the measure, but TV stations in the Grand Rapids and Detroit markets have aired the greatest number, the data show.

Sources: Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, Michigan campaign finance records, Associated Press 

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