A Difficult Choice.

     I have said little about it recently, but the Grand Rapids sales tax referendum is a hot topic locally. As I am outside of the city limits, I will not be voting on it myself, but would like to share a few thoughts for those who will.

     I am neither in favor of the sales tax, nor opposed to it. There are good arguments on both sides. For those in favor of it, there is the promise that an implementation of the sales tax will nominally decrease property taxes, and significantly decrease special assessments. I do agree that property taxes and special assessments should be reduced. The argument against the sales tax is a combination of the fact that Grand Rapids has too high of a tax rate already, combined with the potential of the sales tax hurting some businesses in Grand Rapids. These are also fair arguments. That’s why it is a difficult choice. Both sides are correct in their reasoning, so the choice is not between right and wrong, but between preferences.

     The concern I do have is something else. We, no matter where we live, already have more different taxes than we can keep track of. Most of us do not even realize how many taxes we already pay, and just discovering what they are would take more time than most of us, myself included, have available. Because of this, my inclination would be to oppose the sales tax, not because of its merits, or lack thereof, but because it is yet another tax being added to the far too numerous taxes most of us already pay.

     I would actually be likely to support it if the sales tax would be used to completely replace another tax, rather than simply being added to the myriad taxes we already have to contend with. Fewer taxes mean more transparency, more taxes mean less. Not necessarily by design, but by the difficulty encountered when trying to keep track of them all.

     Just my opinion, and something for you to think about in the days leading up to the vote.

          Mike Vroman.



  1. While I totally agree – the choice is for the residents of Grand Rapids to make, the choice of where to shop is mine as I am not a GR resident. I live in Cohasset, we choose to tax the residents of Cohasset to pay for our infrastructure, while the residents of GR may choose to tax outsiders to pay for their infrastructure. Maybe all the towns surrounding GR should institute a toll road to be paid only by residents of GR. Where does the cycle end? I paid for my home, pay to maintain it, pay my property taxes without asking outsiders to pay a share of it. When this passes (I have no doubt that it will) it is just more evidence of the “entitlement mentality” taking over this country – the “you owe me” mentality. Why is a tax needed? Why don’t the residents of GR have that pride to “take care of themselves?” I drive along Golf Course road and see the new sidewalk that stretches for miles that must have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands, but have never seen anyone using it. Most towns around here paint cross walks on their streets – GR uses very expense red bricks in the downtown area. Expensive items are great, if one can afford them. In any case, once this passes I will sadly say goodbye to GR businesses, where we have always tried to support the local business even at, sometimes, a little greater price. When this passes I will stubbornly make the drive to Hibbing and elsewhere to avoid the GR city tax. Hopefully others will see this as a “Boston Tea Party” moment and also avoid GR.

    • You ask, “Where does the cycle end?” That, exactly, is my concern. Taxes are added, but not eliminated. There is no real transparency. I doubt if more than 1 in 100 people really know how much they are actually paying, if all taxes are considered, since they don’t actually see them.

  2. Well let’s see, I will continue to shop at Ogles, Frame Up, Ace Hardware and Target and get my gas at the SA in Cohasset. Nothing changes for me. Being stubborn doesn’t aid my pocketbook in any manner – so unless I am needing fabric – I will stay put in GR. PS: When you see certain projects being secured – ask about the funding for them. Many are developed with grant money & federal/state funds earmarked for specific projects to help enhance communities for the greater good. Now that said – brick intersections were a lesson learned in an area where roadways shift and lift. The best walkway in town NOW is around Crystal Lake – and it is used all the time. I am still getting used to that round about I admit – but the walking path is excellent and it enhances the neighborhood.

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