Other opinions

Build infrastructure for kayakers

Traverse City’s move to build kayak access points along the Boardman River promises smoother sailing for a thriving recreation thoroughfare.

City commissioners this week supported a plan to designate an official river trail to connect the south end of Boardman Lake with the river mouth in Grand Traverse Bay.

The water trail, of course, already exists. It’s called the Boardman River, and it was there long before the city that grew up around it.

Action at the city level will focus not on the river itself, but on access points — those tender slivers of nature that separate water from land — and signage to guide paddlers to those access points least likely to cause environmental harm. Commissioners should protect the river’s banks by constructing that infrastructure.

They shouldn’t leave the important decision of where to enter the water to the hundreds of paddlers who will shove their boats into the waterway this summer.

The city’s best path forward is to establish, mark and maintain designated put-in and take-out spots for paddlers. Failure to do so could lead to spreading erosion in places where it could be difficult to repair.

If the city builds proper facilities for paddlers to put in their craft, some argue, more paddlers will flock to make use them. There is truth in that argument. But ignoring the growing influx of kayak traffic along the river won’t make it go away.

Kayaks on the river in summer are as common as snowflakes in a blizzard. Paddle traffic has been increasing along the in-town portion of the river, partly because water lovers have discovered the short-commute joy of paddling through downtown, but also because several watercraft rental businesses have sprung up to support growing demand.

Michigan waters are open to the public. The public is finding increasing delight in paddling over the river and through the lake. Water traffic will continue building, with or without proper facilities to support the influx.

Rather than allow the crowd to decide where to launch, where to step, where to create muddy gateways between water and land, the city should offer a guiding hand and create official launch areas to concentrate the traffic where it will do the least harm to our natural resources.

— The Traverse City Record-Eagle

Rush to cut taxes may have cost

The law of unintended consequences could have unintended benefits for Michigan taxpayers. The Congress passed and the president signed the Republican tax reform bill, they accidentally gave the state of Michigan a $1.5 billion windfall by making more of Michiganders’ income taxable.

When taxpayers fill out their Michigan income tax forms, they calculate the tax owed based on the number of exemptions claimed on their federal income taxes. But the GOP tax plan eliminates the personal exemption, effectively raising every Michigan filer’s taxable income by $4,050.

But this is an election year, and state lawmakers were not going to raise taxes — even if they could blame them on someone else in Washington, D.C. Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a simple fix — instead of basing the number of exemptions on what taxpayers claim on the federal form, put the exemption check boxes on the state form and restore the personal exemption that way.

That is, by the way, Port Huron’s city income tax form works. Exemptions are not linked to the number on the federal form.

But because it is an election year, that was not good enough for the Legislature. Lawmakers keep growing the personal exemption beyond the initial $4,050 problem. Competing proposals could have it grow to up to $5,000 by 2021 if the Senate gets its way or $4,800 if a House plan prevails.

House Republicans have thrown in a $100 tax credit for senior citizens and another proposal would hand out a child care tax credit.

They are Republican plans but Democrats seem willing to go along.

They should. We should get to keep our money.

Except Lansing won’t get to keep its other promises if it goes broke. We still haven’t figured out where the $600 million in general fund dollars for road repairs is coming from. The federal tax cut windfall is probably the only one Lansing was going to see any time soon. Analysts don’t expect much growth in state tax revenues.

All that makes giving up $300 million or more in tax cuts risky.

Snyder consistently has acted like one of those old-style Republicans who dislike fiscal irresponsibility even more than they dislike taxes. He has opposed and vetoed his party colleagues’ spend-thrifty ways. That ended Wednesday, though, when lawmakers were able to overturn one of his vetoes for the first time, approving a tax break for car buyers that Snyder said the state couldn’t afford.

Snyder said, “Changing the tax code without a plan to pay for it challenges the conservative fiscal responsibility of the past seven years.” The consequences, he warned, could imperil the state’s economic comeback.

— The Times Herald (Port Huron)

COMMENTS