Michigan Poll Finds Support for Smaller Government

Published January 1, 2004

With their state government facing a potential $1 billion deficit, Michigan taxpayers want lawmakers to balance the budget with spending cuts rather than tax increases, according to a recent poll.

In the November 2003 survey of 600 registered voters in Michigan, respondents voted overwhelmingly in favor of less government spending, increased employment, and a strengthened economy. Participants were asked how they recommended the state balance its current budget. Sixty-eight percent advocated cutting spending, while just 17 percent advocated raising taxes.

“Clearly, there is no desire to raise taxes in Michigan at this time,” said pollster Steve Mitchell of Mitchell Research & Communications Inc., which conducted the survey.

Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, believes the seeds for smaller government in Michigan were planted 25 years ago with the passage of a 1978 amendment that put “limits on state and local government” by incorporating them into the Michigan Constitution. Today Reed notes, “Without the restraints on government provided for in the 1978 amendment, Michigan workers and families would be struggling today to make do with less. Both the tax burden and the Lansing bureaucracy would be larger, at the cost of an exodus of people and their businesses from Michigan.”

“Jobs and the economy rank as Michigan residents’ top concerns,” according to State Rep. Marc Shulman (R-West Bloomfield), chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “The results of this survey will guide us through the difficult days to come as we work to balance this budget,” Shulman said.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, told the Oakland Press that Granholm’s budget goals “are in line with the survey results.”

On December 18, the Michigan House voted 64-46 to approve a bill, similar to an agreement reached by Granholm and the state senate, to cut projected spending by $379.8 million and cut business taxes, but also to delay a planned reduction in the state income tax.

“The most basic responsibility of a state representative is to advocate on behalf of his or her constituents. Similarly, the task of the Appropriations Committee is first and foremost to make suggestions about state spending based on what best serves the residents of Michigan,” said Shulman,. “It is my responsibility to know what the public is saying.”

According to the survey, residents believe the most important problem facing the State of Michigan is jobs and the economy (43 percent), followed by budget issues (19 percent), education and schools (10 percent), and health care and prescription drugs (6 percent). Jobs and the economy also ranked first when respondents were asked to identify the most important problem facing their local communities.

“Through this poll, the residents of Michigan have spoken,” Shulman said. “We will do our best to listen.”

“Will lawmakers listen to Michigan residents?” asked Mitchell. “I don’t know. But it’s pretty clear there is no support here for a tax hike.”

The poll was conducted November 3-11. Poll results are available at Shulman’s online office at http://www.gophouse.com/shulman.htm.

John Skorburg is managing editor of Budget & Tax News. His email address is [email protected].