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Tax cut petition campaign stalls in front of state election board

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A petition campaign seeking to eliminate property taxes in Michigan was dealt a setback Monday by a state elections board. But the Axe MI Tax campaign said it will likely skip the optional step of receiving board approval and start collecting signatures anyway.

“You don’t need to go through this way. It’s elective,” said Karla Wagner of Axe MI Tax.

Petition campaigns typically seek advance approval by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers of 100-word summary language and the format of petitions to avoid legal challenges later. The Axe MI Tax drive has still not submitted its form for pre-approval, and that alone was enough for board chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz, a Democrat, to vote against approving the petition.

Decisions by the four-person, evenly divided board must be bipartisan. Republican board member Anthony Daunt said he would have approved the summary without waiting to see the petition form. That deadlock means the petition did not get pre-approval by the board.

Opponents offered more than a hint of what they might argue if Axe MI Tax returns in the future with petition signatures.

“The people who will sign this petition are entitled to know the effects of this proposal," said attorney Mark Brewer.

Brewer said the petition would be vulnerable to a challenge if it doesn’t list all the laws that would be altered or abrogated by the proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution. He said that is more than a technicality.

“This proposal would cut billions of dollars from schools in this state,” he said. “It would defund local governments, which are dependent for over 90% of their revenue on property taxes.”

Wagner said she does not believe that will be a problem.

“I don’t think we’ll need to replace it because once property taxes are gone, when there are no more property taxes in the state of Michigan, we will have businesses flocking here, to come here and to do business here and, more importantly, we will have people coming back.”

Axe MI Tax is aiming to get the question on the November 2024 ballot.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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