“Vote Yes” Income Tax Committee Targets Retirees

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 7:12 am
Alice Dreger

Above: The absentee vote drop-off box outside East Lansing’s City Hall.

The official ballot committee urging a “yes” vote on an income tax for East Lansing has produced a mailer targeted at East Lansing homeowners who are retired. The mailer (shown below) encourages retirees to “Give yourself a (tax) break!” by voting yes on the income tax.

Retirees who own homes in East Lansing will likely see a net reduction in the taxes they pay to East Lansing, if the income tax passes. Older voters are also generally more likely to vote than younger people. All of that explains the “vote yes” side’s decision to send out these targeted mailers. The reverse side of the mailer is shown here:

Why would a homeowning retiree’s tax liability go down with a vote for an income tax? If the income tax proposal passes, an East Lansing property tax reduction is set to automatically go into effect for the twelve-year period the income tax is in effect (2019-2030). Because retirement income is not taxed, the net effect for many homeowning retirees will be a drop in taxes paid to East Lansing. (Their property tax will go down, and their income tax liability will not go up.)

East Lansing’s City Council decided to ask the voters for an income tax to deal with the City’s ballooning retirement-related debt. The decision to pair the income tax with a property tax reduction was aimed at putting most of the tax burden on people who work in East Lansing but don’t live here. The great majority of such people work at MSU.

The decision to pair a property tax reduction with an income tax was also aimed at getting older voters to vote in favor.

Some have speculated that the decision to put the vote on August 7, while MSU students are away, was meant to keep students from voting the income tax down. But when an income tax measure was put to voters last November, a slight majority of all on-campus voters (51.41% of 184 voters) supported the income tax. It’s impossible to determine how students living off-campus voted, and impossible to say how they might vote this time around.

In the run-up to the November 2017 income tax ballot, the “vote yes” committee sent out many more mailers than we have seen this time. That said, there are “vote yes” signs to be seen all around town.

The “vote no” committee this time around has been quiet, apparently not sending out mailers or arranging signs. The only apparent “no” sign of which ELi is aware is a homemade one, shown below. ("Meadows" is a reference to Mayor Mark Meadows.)

Want to learn more about the income tax and about the City’s financial problems? Check out ELi’s comprehensive Voter Guide to the Income Tax.

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