All members of the University community should take note of three ballot issues in the coming election. They have serious implications for the University's finances. All three are proposed amendments to the state constitution.
Proposal C (Cut and Cap) lowers property taxes for school operations and puts a ceiling of 3 percent on annual increases in property assessments. Both of these aspects affect revenues for schools and local governments. The state is required to reimburse the school districts for the loss from the first aspect, but not to make any reimbursement for the second. The state is expected to find funds for the reimbursement in the surplus resulting from annual growth in state revenues. Unfortunately, such growth has not occurred in the last two years, so that the funds would have to come from reduction of other state programs, of which higher education is one. The Senate Fiscal Agency estimates that the extra burden on the state could rise to $2 billion in the year 2002. ADVANCE MICHIGAN, a coalition of many organizations, including the state Association of University Professors, is opposing this amendment. The example of California is often cited to show what such tax reductions can lead to.
Proposal A (Assessment Limitation) would set a limit of the rate of inflation or 5 percent, which ever is less, on property assessment increases, with no reimbursement by the state for lost revenue. This would have significant impact in times of high inflation and would then hurt K-12 education, community colleges and all operations of local governments. With present low inflation, there would be no immediate effect, but periods of inflation well above 5 percent have occurred, so that the amendment is of long-term significance. It could lead to additional state taxes to help local governments.
Proposal B (Term Limitation) limits service in the House of Representatives to three terms in each 12-year period and places similar limits on terms in the Senate and in each house of the state legislature; it also limits the governor and other state elected officials to two terms. This amendment has been criticized as taking the power to choose from the voters. It is also called unnecessary by the New York Times, since, for example, the average length of service in the House is about 10 years.
professor emeritus of mathematics