Gov. Rick Snyder believes anti-bridge proposal, others could ‘turn back progress’ in Michigan

By Jonathan Oosting |

LANSING, MI — Gov. Rick Snyder wants Michigan voters to do their due diligence by thoroughly researching ballot proposals he believes could “turn back progress” in the state.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered onto the November ballot three measures intended to block construction of a new international bridge, enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution and require a two-thirds majority of the state legislature to raise taxes.

“We respect the Michigan Supreme Court ruling and appreciate them addressing these issues in a timely manner so that state and local election officials can property prepare for the November election,” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said in an e-mail.

“That said, Gov. Snyder believes that many of these ballot measures raise serious, legitimate questions and have potentially far reaching implications and ramifications that would turn back progress and appear to go well beyond what paid petition gatherers portrayed.”

The People Should Decide, a committee funded by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, paid a third-party to collect more than 600,000 signatures for a proposal that seeks to amend the state constitution by requiring a public vote for any international bridge or tunnel not completed by the end of the year.

Specifically, the proposal seeks to block construction of the New International Trade Crossing, which would connect Detroit and Windsor roughly two miles downriver from the Ambassador.

Canada has offered to cover Michigan’s upfront costs for the project and recoup its investment through future toll revenue. The U.S. General Services Administration is expected to cover the cost of a customs plaza, and the bridge itself will be financed by investors in a public-private partnership.

The Board of State Canvassers, which previously failed to certify the proposal, is expected to meet Friday and comply with the Supreme Court order, paving the way for a November vote.

Committee director Mickey Blashfield hailed the ruling as a victory for voters, noting that Snyder failed to win legislative support for the bridge before partnering with Canada through an interlocal agreement.

“The court has affirmed the people have a right to decide how our money is best spent,” Blashfield said in a released statement, suggesting that the bridge could end up costing the state despite Snyder’s repeated insistence that it will not. “And we are confident that come election day, The People Should Decide initiative will be approved by Michigan voters.”

Opposition group Taxpayers Against Monopolies, initially funded by the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, contends the proposal is a veiled attempt to protect Moroun’s interests at one of the nation’s busiest international trade crossings.

An attorney for the group has called the proposal hastily-written, suggesting it defines international bridge in such a way that it could be applied to any crossing in the state, including local projects with no international ties.

Snyder’s spokesperson echoed that argument.

“It appears to require that ANY new bridge or tunnel in Michigan would need a statewide vote,” Wurfel said via email. “Can you imagine needing a statewide vote to decide whether your community needs a new bridge? That would be a very costly nightmare.”

“It’s going to be imperative for voters to get the facts on this measure and all the others to make sure they get the full story and can make an informed decision.”

Check in coming weeks for detailed analysis of each ballot proposal.