Updates on the Election Campaigns

Friday, November 3, 2017, 4:49 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

We’re steadily receiving questions from readers about various aspects of the Council and Yes/No campaigns on the income tax. Here are some answers and updates:

Susan Woods has filed a financial disclosure:

Susan Woods’ reelection campaign for East Lansing City Council filed a campaign finance disclosure yesterday, four business days after the deadline. That disclosure shows no new funds brought into the campaign. (She had funds leftover from her last campaign.) The form also appears to contain an error: in one section, it shows expenditures totaling $659, and in another, expenditures of only $159, for production of campaign literature.

Woods does not appear to have paid the fines for late filing yet. As we previously reported, the fine is $25 for every business day the campaign finance disclosure is late.

Ruth Beier has received money and sent out flyers:

We previously reported that Ruth Beier’s Council reelection campaign brought in and spent no funds. Since she filed her disclosure, Beier has received $1,000 from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local union. We were alerted to this by Steve Harry, who noted that the date of the contribution (October 18) predated Beier’s report that showed no income.

Asked to explain, Beier told ELi yesterday night, “They sent the check on Oct. 18, but they sent it to [a wrong address] and it was returned to them. I picked it up in person yesterday and deposited it yesterday. So it correctly shows up on their pre 10/20 report and will correctly show up on my post election report.”

Informed that according to County Clerk Barb Byrum that the contribution’s timing may actually require a Late Contribution Report to be in compliance, Beier indicated she would file the paperwork today.

Beier has now mailed out flyers for her campaign, representing her first campaign expenditure.

Yard signs with no campaign expenditure?

ELi has received questions about how Beier and Woods can have yard signs out in the community when, at least until recently, they supposedly spent no money on their campaigns. The answer is that they saved yard signs from their campaigns four years ago and are re-using them. This is a common practice in East Lansing for Council and School Board elections.

The realtors spending in support of Aaron Stephens’ campaign:

ELi has also received questions about whether the realtors’ PAC spent money on any of the other candidates they have endorsed, or whether all the funds have been spent on Council candidate Aaron Stephens. (Stephens is the only candidate the realtors’ PAC is supporting in the East Lansing election, but the realtors’ group has indicated support of candidates running for election in Lansing.)

The campaign finance disclosure from the PAC shows that the PAC brought in almost $33,000, all but $100 of that from the National Association of Realtors, and that the only candidate it has spent money to support is Aaron Stephens. That means the PAC is spending on Stephens the entire donation from the National Association of Realtors.

Todd Hewyood at City Pulse has more on this story.

What the firefighters’ ballot question committee says it is for:

We reported on Tuesday that the firefighters’ union has organized a ballot question committee to urge people to “vote yes on 1.” As noted in the article, there is no numbering of the proposals on the ballot, and the first ballot question that will appear on Ingham County ballots is actually a County millage question.

So what’s up? I received an answer from John Newman, record keeper of the ballot question committee, to that question. At first, he told me the “vote yes” refers to the property tax reduction. Asked how that would help emergency service personnel, he sent a follow-up saying the “vote yes” refers to both the East Lansing income tax and property tax reduction proposals.

What the income tax would cost to administer:

The City hired consultant Plante Moran to figure out what an income tax would be likely to net. In that study, Plante Moran estimated the administrative costs of an income tax for East Lansing would come to about $400,000. The income tax would be expected to bring in about $10.4 million total, and the property tax reduction would take away about $5 million in revenue, so after administrative costs, the City would be expected to net about $5 million per year from the paired proposals, if both pass.

That said, Mayor Mark Meadows has been telling MSU students that if the plan passes, most students who earn money in East Lansing would be able to file an electronic E-Z form. ELi asked Meadows what that would cost and whether other cities have such an option. He replied:

“Detroit has an electronic version. The state does their tax. If it passes we have to make a pretty quick decision on who will administer the tax and there are basically two to choose from: the state or an outfit that does a bunch of other cities. I am just one vote [on Council]. I prefer the state because they offer the electronic capability. I can probably have a cost in a couple of days.”

No sample forms yet:

Some people have been asking whether they can see a sample East Lansing city tax form to calculate what they would owe if it passes. None yet exists.

Some reminders:

The City Clerk’s office will have special hours this Saturday to accommodate voters who need to vote absentee. Read more here.

If you want to know where you go to vote and what your ballot will look like, just go to Michigan.gov/vote

If you want to read ELi’s coverage of the City Council race, including our profiles of the three candidates, coverage on their campaign financing, and more, check out our dedicated voter guide.

And if you want to learn all about the tax proposals on the ballot, check out our dedicated tax proposals guide.

Finally, if you want to keep this service going in 2018, pitch in a tax-deductible contribution to ELi, your public service local news provider. It’s easy.