DETROIT – Wayne County Executive Warren Evans pitched a new plan to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) this week with the intent of it going before voters this fall.
The plan is being called "Connect Southeast Michigan." It would call for a 1.5-mill property tax levy on Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties. If the average house in the RTA's four-county region is worth $157,504, it would cost homeowners $118 a year, which is less than $10 per month.
According to Evans' office, the millage is projected to raise $5.4 billion over 20 years to fund expanded regional transit service and plan forward flexible transit innovations as technology changes the transportation and mobility industries. That includes premium bus routes, increased bus frequency, better connection to the airport, expanded commuter rail service and $696 million for transportation infrastructure.
Metro Detroit voters rejected a similar regional transit plan that was on the 2016 ballot. Back then the RTA proposed a $4.6 billion master plan as a 20-year millage (2017-2036) at 1.2 mills. The millage would have been applied in addition to other possible state and federal funding sources. It would have cost about $7.92 per month ($95 a year) for the average home in southeast Michigan.
Voters struck it down, but by a slim margin.
Here's how each county voted:
- YES -- 56.15 percent -- 94,326 votes
- NO -- 43.85 percent -- 73,654 votes
- YES -- 52.71 percent -- 360,883 votes
- NO -- 47.29 percent -- 323,720 votes
- NO -- 50.10 percent -- 293,599 votes
- YES -- 49.90 percent -- 292,462 votes
- NO -- 60.1 percent -- 222,883 votes
- YES -- 39.9 percent -- 148,206 votes
Oakland County was basically split on the proposal while Macomb County voters were overwhelmingly against it.
Oakland County leaders against Wayne County's new plan
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's office released a statement this week against the Wayne County regional transit pitch. Although the county just barely voted "no" on the proposal in 2016, Patterson's office made it clear they "cannot support a regional transit plan that taxes Oakland County communities."
"It’s a pie-in-the-sky proposal that allows the RTA to reach deep into the pockets of Oakland County taxpayers who will pay 40 percent of the regional transit tab but receive far less than 40 percent of the regional transit services in return," reads a statement from the county. "Oakland County taxpayers already contribute the most funding to SMART bus. Taxpayers in Oakland County Act 196 taxing authority opt-in communities have paid $352 million to support public transit provided by SMART since voters approved the first millage 21 years ago. That's $37 million more than Macomb County and $107 million more than Wayne County. Detroit has paid nothing into SMART yet still receives some services."
Speaking of Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan expressed his full support for the latest regional transit plan.
"Residents of all 4 counties deserve to vote on it this fall. I applaud County Exec Evans for developing a plan that’ll allow citizens to connect with jobs and our region to compete for more," Duggan wrote in a tweet.
The question is would Wayne and Washtenaw counties move ahead with their own plan if they can't get Oakland and Macomb counties onboard?
In February, Evans and Patterson appeared on Local 4's Flashpoint to talk about the possible transit plan. Watch the discussion below: