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Virg Not Ambivalent Anymore On Prop 1

March 31, 2015

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero led a parade of local Ingham County officials who sang the praises of a yes vote on Proposal 1 after the Mayor sang a different tune a month ago.  

Once self-described as “solidly ambivalent” on the sales tax to fix the roads, his Honor said today during a press event, “It is crunch time. I’m no longer ambivalent . . . it’s the best we’re going to get because there is no Plan B.”

So what moved him off the fence?

“I just dove in and studied it carefully . . . I had not studied all the elements of the package.” Bernero confessed that he was not aware of what was hammered out in the lame duck negations, including the renewed Earned Income Tax Credit, which he says takes some of the financial edge off of the sales tax hike.

“It is a safeguard and best for all families and middle class families.”

The 6-to 7-percent tax hike was at the heart of his initial reservations, but now he concluded, “I’m voting yes and urging others to do the same.”

The estimates that the Lansing area would see an influx of about $2 million for roads fixes if voters say yes on May 5 also might have played a role in Bernero’s change of heart.

Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wrigglesworth anchored the event, which was hampered by the noisy squawk box inside Lansing fire station No. 5, with a variety of emergency calls drowning out what the local officials were saying at times.

The Democratic Sheriff agreed with the public safety aspect of the advertising campaign, contending that motorists are at risk driving on some of Michigan’s roadways.

Scott Hagerstrom, who hung out in the back of the news conference, was there to represent the Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, the Paul Mitchell-funded group that has become the most visible opponent of Prop 1.  

People “resent that they are being threatened by elected officials” and this “drawing-at-their-heart-strings” advertising campaign, Hagerstrom said. He focused on the “$200 per person” cost associated with the sales tax, a number he gets by dividing 10 million residents of Michigan into the $2 billion price tag on the plan.

Others at the event included Tim Daman, head of the Lansing Chamber of Commerce, Alan Garner from the Michigan Farm Bureau and a representative from Dean Transportation, which moves thousands of children around the state everyday.

Bernero said he can’t “afford another decade” of waiting to fix his local roads. “Bad roads cost more than good roads,” he said. 

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