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State dismisses election law complaint against governor

Feb 4, 2015

Gov. Snyder delivers his State of the State address.
Credit Gov. Rick Snyder

The Michigan Bureau of Elections says Gov. Rick Snyder did not break campaign finance laws during his State of the State speech last month.

The bureau dismissed a complaint accusing the governor of using taxpayer dollars to advocate for a May ballot proposal to raise the sales tax. Snyder told voters to “vote yes” on the question at least six times during the speech.

“At the very least this is a violation of the spirit of the law. And frankly, for me, it’s a straight-up violation,” said Tea Party activist Jason Gillman, who filed the complaint.

Gillman says he is likely to sue the state over the issue.

“Could they make such a determination so quickly with any kind of real regard for whether or not it’s a violation? I don’t think they could,” he said. “I think this is an embarrassment for the Secretary of State, unfortunately.”

Elections officials say the law allows elected officials to express opinions about ballot measures during speeches.

“He’s a public official, an elected official, expressing his opinion, so he’s able to do that,” said Fred Woodhams, a spokesperson for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

“Now, if they were to run ads with the same language paid for at taxpayer expense, that would be a problem.”

Tea Party groups have launched efforts to oppose the May ballot proposal. It would raise the state’s sales tax from six to seven percent. If passed, it’s expected to raise about $1.2 billion for roads, $300 million for schools, and $95 million for local governments.