Prop. 6 a threat to projects; Could affect all bridges in Michigan, opponents say

Scott Davis | Oct. 31, 2012

Lansing State Journal

Opponents of a statewide ballot proposal to block a proposed international bridge to Canada say it could jeopardize bridge projects statewide, including five slated in Ingham and Clinton counties next year.

During a press conference hosted by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Tuesday poor wording in the Proposal 6 ballot language could subject any Michigan bridge or tunnel not open to the public by Jan. 1, 2012, to voter approval at both the state and municipal levels.

Calley said this would not only create huge new hurdles for several dozens of projects that state officials have slated for next year, but it creates potential problems for bridges built this year, like the recently opened Saginaw Street Bridge over the Grand River in Lansing. He couldn’t speculate what form those problems might take.

He added state officials have not decided how to proceed if Proposal 6 is approved by voters, but said it’s possible the state could halt bridge projects until the ramifications of the ballot proposal are ruled on by the courts.

“We are gravely concerned,” said Judy Allen, legislative affairs director with the Michigan Townships Association. “There are a lot of unintended consequences. It’s a poorly worded proposal.”

It’s not the first time that opponents of Proposal 6 have argued the proposal is poorly worded. Last summer, opponents included the argument, among others, in a court challenge to block it from the state ballot. The Michigan Supreme Court ultimately ruled to allow Proposal 6 on the ballot.

The troublesome part of the ballot language is where it defines the bridges that would be subjected to statewide and local voter approval, opponents says. The section reads: “New international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles shall mean any bridge
or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic as of Jan. 1, 2012.”

Mickey Blashfield, director of The People Should Decide ballot committee — a group supporting the propsoal — blasted Calley’s criticism of the ballot wording. Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge connecting Michigan and Canada, has contributed $31 million to passing it, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.

“The Supreme Court has already heard these baseless arguments and rejected them when they ordered Proposal 6 on the ballot,” Blashfield said in a written statement. “The lieutenant governor has resorted to last-minute scare tactics.”

Allen said she is concerned about the prospect of communities having to seek ballot approval for bridge projects locally and statewide, noting that it is difficult sometimes for communities just to secure funding from the state for projects.

Calley said it’s possible that the state would seek a statewide ballot measure clarifying the ballot proposal if its passed Nov. 6.