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Posted on Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

Outside job: Alma Wheeler Smith taking new approach to reforming Michigan government

By Ryan J. Stanton

After finishing a 14-year career in the Michigan Legislature, Alma Wheeler Smith is finding time for those things she's neglected — like getting that knee surgery she's been putting off for years because she didn't want to take time away from her job.

"Everything is going well following knee surgery, and the recovery process has been pain free," she said this week. "I'm very ready to start work on my next project."

The next project for Smith, a Democrat who lives in Washtenaw County's Salem Township, promises to rock the boat in Lansing as the state's new Republican leaders assume control.


Alma Wheeler Smith, who recently stepped down from her 54th District state House seat, plans to lead a new grassroots action agency that will work on getting two statewide initiatives on the ballot in November 2012.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Smith, who was term-limited from running for re-election to her 54th District state House seat and launched an unsuccessful bid for governor last year, plans to push forward an aggressive grassroots campaign over the next two years to reform state government.

It's possible she could accomplish more from the outside looking in than she ever did in the Legislature as she sets her sights on two issues: a graduated income tax and a compromise on term limits.

Smith is in the early stages of forming a grassroots action agency that will work to put those two issues on the ballot in November 2012. Tell me about the work you're doing now.

Smith: Having been frustrated through six years in the Michigan House about the Legislature's inability to take some pretty concrete action to eliminate our structural deficit, there are a number of think tanks that have talked about what needs to happen for Michigan — how that should be structured — and nothing happened. Not at the legislative level and not at the grassroots level. So my hope is to set up a 'do tank' that gets some things done, and work with the grassroots to make sure we have good support for a couple of initiatives that will help us fill the deep hole that threatens the state's ability to provide programs and services. OK, so this is going to be a 'do tank,' which implies you're actually going to get some things done.

Smith: That's right. How are you going to go about that?

Smith: I don't believe in government by initiative necessarily. The initiatives that I've seen in the past five or six years have been against something, have been short-sighted and have taken away rights and opportunities. I think many of the initiatives, including the term-limits initiative, were introduced by people who had no sense of what the responsibilities of state government are and how state government works. I will be, however — with the do tank — looking at a couple of initiatives. One of them would be a graduated income tax, which polls suggest that 60 percent or more of the population support. And we will do a lot of focus groups and polling to see if there is some adjustment to term limits that the citizens can get behind. So when you say 'adjustment,' you're not talking about getting rid of term limits, you're talking about finding a compromise?

Smith: I would love to get rid of term limits, but in order to get something passed, it will have to be a compromise. The citizens seem to believe still that limiting people in office gives them a little bit more control. We always had control. It was called the ballot and people lose. And people leave office after they feel they've done what they can in service. The average length of service for people in the Legislature prior to term limits was 14 years, so it was unnecessary. So it's time to revisit that and I realize we have to compromise. How many citizen signatures do you need to get an initiative on the ballot?

Smith: It's all based on a formula for the number of votes cast for the governor in the most recent election. That would be the 2010 election. But I would imagine 350,000. I haven't actually sat down to do the number calculation yet. We're working on the dollars to set up the organization. We have an initial $300,000. We're going to work on getting that matched through a couple of sources and see if we can't create a little organization that will work with the think tanks of the state that have already been out doing citizen education on some of these issues. So you already have $300,000?

Smith: Yes, I have a line on $300,000. I don't have it in my hand. What's the source of the funding?

Smith: It's a foundation. We'll be releasing that when we're set up.

AnnArbor: So it's not officially set up yet?

Smith: That's right. We're not official at all. $300,000 gets a few people working, but it doesn't get the kind of monetary commitment we need to get an initiative mounted. So when those dollars are in hand, I'm ready to roll. But there are think tanks in existence that we would be working with. I'm interested in having a conversation with Phil Power (the Center for Michigan) and Progress Michigan. I don't intend to recreate the wheel. There are organizations that already do very effective work in certain areas. I will try to build on theirs and coordinate with them, so that we have a really coherent strategy going into an initiative election in 2012. Let's go back to the graduated income tax. You said that's going to be the first thing you're going to push. Why is that?

Smith: Well, because it really addresses a change in the economics in the state of Michigan. We have over the last eight years, 10 years, seen a greater stratification of income. … The graduated income tax is a fairer tax and it looks at the people's ability to pay. And it has the potential of generating the kind of revenue that we need to fill the hole that has been structural to the state's budget for a long time. The graduated income tax has been before us a number of times. People's acceptance of it has increased over time. People seem to get this, that the state can't continue to go on cutting programs and services, that we need the resources to fund education, health care and human services, and people are willing to pay taxes if they know how those dollars are going to be spent. Is it possible that you'll actually achieve greater structural change in state government outside of the Legislature than you did in the Legislature?

Smith: It's quite possible. When you have to work through a democratic process where there is a tremendous amount of compromise, thwarting of progress by special interest groups, things get bogged down and don't happen. So it's quite possible that we at least have a shot of making greater structural change from the outside than I did from the inside. The fact that you're going this initiative route, is that in some way a demonstration of lack of faith that the leadership that's in Lansing now will do the things that need to be done to turn our state around?

Smith: Well, when I hear the leaders of the Legislature saying that we can continue to run state government and balance our budgets with cuts, my answer is I have little hope that the Legislature will work cooperatively with the governor if he thinks we have to do something different than cuts to get that job done. I know that Randy Richardville, who is the majority leader in the Senate, has been talking about a reform in the business tax. Snyder himself talked about a reform in the business tax, but his proposal that he floated during his campaign is going to cost the state more money or it would deepen the shortfall that we already had. Is your proposal essentially a tax increase?

Smith: No, it isn't. About 80 percent of the citizens would see a tax the same or less than the 4.35 percent they're already paying on their income. 15 to 20 percent of the population would see an increase in the tax that they are paying, but those are folks at the higher income level.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


David Briegel

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

All these commenters complaining about 'Socialism" who probably shop at WalMart! Communism is good enough for the Walton family and the rest of the Fortune 500 that get all they want in China that they can't find in America. Cheap labor, plundering the natural resources and polluting the environment. China lifted 350,000,000 people out of poverty. America puts our citizens into poverty!! Just can't have that evil Socialistic stuff here in God's country !?

Larry Kestenbaum

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

Just a thought. Michigan has a flat rate income tax and is doing worse economically than almost any other state. Meanwhile, other states with a graduated income tax are doing better economically than we are. A fairer tax system will not drive jobs away. Our "flat tax" has certainly not attracted them!


Mon, Jan 17, 2011 : 11:38 a.m.

It would be nice if she just stayed at home with her cats and baked cookies

Sam Adems

Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

I think Alma is way off base. Any effort to sharply raise taxes will snuff out many of the rest of the jobs in Michigan. The voters recognized this and voted overwhelmingly Republican in the last election because the Republicans in the Senate and House voted repeatedly to not raise taxes while Granholm tried repeatedly along with the Democrats in the House and Senate to raise taxes. Raising taxes in a Depression is economic suicide! The voters recognized this and sent the Democrats to the woodshed for their poor grasp of Economics 101. When he was candidate for Governor, Mike Bouchard announced the text of a Constitutional amendment he proposed, which would be a game changer for the state. It would prohibit the state and all local units of government from paying any public service employees benefits that are more or less than 3 percent of those comparable jobs in the private sector. The Mackinac Center published research in 2009 that indicates that if a constitutional amendment were adopted that mandated this, it would save $5.7 billion per year (see The savings would be enough to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax, plug the state's $1.8 billion structural budget deficit and eliminate the deficits at the local level of government. It would allow us to start to eliminate the over $32 billion pension fund deficit that our state government currently is labored with. You can read the text of the proposed constitutional amendment at: Of course eliminating the Michigan Business Tax would bring tons of jobs to the state, especially when Illinois (being run into the ground by Democrats) just raised that state's business tax rate to 7%. Rather than Alma's ballot initiative paean to big government, we ought to get this amendment on the ballot.


Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

Larry's earlier political assesment is accurate, but also a tad curmudgeonly. Yes, it will most definitely require a treacherous, uphill battle. In regard to a graduated state income tax, Michigan's uber-wealthy will lavishly organize to defend keeping piles of cash they don't need and wouldn't realize was gone should they went missing. Meanwhile, party leaders and well-heeled lobbyists have a special interest in keeping current term limits, no matter how much failure and dysfunction that system creates. Yet, one gets started by working with the situation at hand, no matter how miserable and demoralizing. As the saying goes (as best I recall), even if — in the worst case scenario — your cause metaphorically amounts to little more than a mosquito on the back of an elephant, then at least make the big creature itch and scratch. What Wheeler-Smith ought to take away from Larry's comment is that her planned reforms cannot anticipate success without widespread grassroots organizing. Relying primarily on support from institutional 'movers and shakers' would be a recipe for failure. To counter the wealthy, the powerful, and their tea-drinking lackeys, it will be pretty essential to have dedicated volunteers across the state knocking on doors and running phone banks. The 2012 general election offers the first decent opportunity for Wheeler-Smith and her allies to place reform referenda on the ballot for a graduated state income tax and for increased term limits. General elections with presidential candidates on the ballot see the highest relative voter turnout; the wingnut vote becomes noticeably more diluted. Reactionary politicians and policies do better in mid-term elections when fewer people vote. If a campaign aimed at constructive change makes a failed attempt in the next major election, that will still lay groundwork for subsequent efforts later on. Michigan residents may need to be reminded over and over and over that creeping destitution for so many — amid greater privilege for a select few — need not be the only available social option for our state's future.

David Briegel

Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 8:39 a.m.

How much should the rich pay? Well, Stun, how about the same rate as you? Or a $70,000 per yr Admin Asst? You lament the poor who may pay little tax but you can't bring yourself to criticize the corporations or the wealthy who pay little to no tax. And you can't bring yourself to address the unfair lower "effective tax rate" of the most fortunate among us! Again, you guys hate democracy. We the people elected, or not, Ms Smith. Just like you the people elect Boehner and McConnell. We don't need term limits. They serve no useful purpose and just require the special interests to rent someone new more often! It is the money that has poisoned our politics and our elections. The grubbing for more and more and more money!! And NOW with the Citizens United debacle, it will only get (better according to your thinking) much worse!! The descriprion of capitalism misses the part where productivity improvements are shared by all who contribute. That isn't what is happening in our once proud nation as the greed knows no bounds and the mythology of trickle down is exposed! Henry Ford was successful BECAUSE he treated and paid employees fairly. Above the competition! And we legislate morality every single day! Prohibition didn't work and it isn't working with drugs. The Drug War Industrial Complex and the Prison Industrial Complex are the only beneficiaries!

Jay McNally

Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

There is nothing new in Alma-Wheeler's approach. She admits she is looking to increase taxes and expand the power of incumbents. Her and Granholm's approach left Michigan "blown away" by economic incompetence.


Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 12:17 a.m.

Taxes are the addiction that is destroying Michgan's future. Taxes repel new capital, jobs and prosperity. Dear sh1: can't you see Michigan dying around you? Property values and incomes are completely destroyed. School districts are bankrupt. Businesses and homeowners are fleeing wherever possible. There is no more money. Read a little economics: it is economic law that need is LIMITLESS but money is limited. The question is, how do we meet our limitless needs with limited resources? In socialism, you distribute things based on need. Sounds sensible--even wonderful, but it is the single greatest cause of tyranny, deprivation and misery in human experience. In a socialist economy--like Michigan's is becoming--need eventually crushes productivity until the system completely collapses--but not until the people of Michigan suffer even more terribly. By ensuring that need overwhelms production, socialism ultimately implodes on itself wherever people are free to choose. So it typically leads to removal of freedom. But if we could go the other way, if you could distribute to each based on what he or she produces (and allow people to keep the fruits of their labor--resisting the urge to take it from them thru taxation--all of which is the definition of capitalism,) then people would want to produce more. Then it is production that increases & increases, and generates prosperity, and allows charitable people & institutions to help those in need. Isn't charity a moral choice, and didn't we already learn that legislating morality doesn't work? If we do not immediately cut spending to the bone, and try to build up our own capital, you will see far worse & more widespread misery at even closer range. You can ignore economic law with the same success you can ignore math or gravity. And much more pain. But Michigan has not yet suffered enough for socialists like Ms. Smith who are intent on doing more harm.


Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : midnight

I am open to a modification of term limits such as a person who is term limited can only come back to office with a minimum of say 65% of the primary vote otherwise "ADIOS". That way the really good ones have a chance to stay but the obvious chumps must leave.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

Well before you (me) can build a house,you(me) have to check our finance (credit). In now the new boss (nerd) is in charge.AUDIT.Audit. Audit.Audit.Audit.Audit each and every Department!\We citizen want to know how much money is in the BANK..Like the Lotto. SEC. of STaTE. Department of Treasury..There is a big problem there.They cannot clear or balance the BOOKs.In my case I have been in touch with Mrs. Wheeler for a couple years, but hte Department DOESNOT NOT CLEAR there MESS. And with the NEW taxyear coming up.HERE WE GO AGAIN.Piont the taxform state and give CREDIT to taxpayer....but the Department of Treasury DOESNOT give us CITIZEN our MONEY...we are 170 Senior in this Building and there are All Senior in Michigan that are intled to this MONEY. The Department of TREASURY OWNS US SENIOR back taxes with interest.Could the reporter come for the whole story.really need to go to the media.As a Senoir I am tired of this......

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

@Larry Kestenbaum Thanks for chiming in on this. Alma indicated to me in our discussions that she understands there would be strong opposition just how well funded that opposition will be remains to be seen, but you're probably correct in your assumption that it will be quite the battle.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 10:55 p.m.

Voting is term limiting! The only thing term limits did, was to give us less choices and more inexperience. Experience in politics is no less than that of a surgeon, police officer, pilot, or parent. The only people Ive ever heard complain; are those who have no experience. I believe term limits are proof positive of a failed education system in Michigan. This is not due to what our teachers are teaching; it is what are parents arent teaching. Face it, we are a self-involved society with little regard for others in our community, our state, our country. We are a fear based society with personal wealth and amusement being our highest achievement. We allow corporations and even other countries to manipulate our laws and hold us hostage. We believe that those in government, politicians, judges, policeman all have hidden agendas. We invest in cynicism and Wall Street but not our own street. As for Alma Wheeler; she is one of the most giving and selfless true Americans Ive ever had the pleasure to meet. I may not have stood on the same isle as she on many issues. But her core belief in democracy and compassion for her fellow Americans is what makes me believe, that Michigan may someday again rise from the ashes of deceit and self-destruction. We have a new governor now; but we still have the same divided citizens. If we do not all pitch-in for one another we will surely be doomed to failure. Yes Alma, we need all the help and experience you and all other Michigan citizens can give us.

Larry Kestenbaum

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

I admire Alma and her projects, but I doubt she will be successful with them. (1) Michigan is one of very few large states without a graduated income tax. A middle-income family pays more in income tax than in other states, but a high-income family pays a good deal less. But the ban on a graduated income tax is written into the state constitution. And though most people would pay less under a graduated income tax, a few very affluent folks would pay more. Any attempt to change the constitution on this point will be faced with an extremely well-funded campaign against it. (2) Pretty much anyone who pays close attention to the state legislature, whether they be business or labor, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, all agree that our draconian term limits have been a catastrophe for governing Michigan. Under term limits, all the legislators are much more dependent on their political parties, and so they toe the party line much more closely than ever before -- leading to lots of gridlock and lack of compromise. We don't have any middle ground or moderates in either party. Term limits also mean that almost all the legislators are on the prowl for their next job. Naturally this leads to corrupt deals with lobbyists who can dangle job offers. But the polling on term limits is just heartbreaking. Voters in the Lansing area (again, whether liberal or conservative) can see what a disaster term limits have been, but the farther you get from Lansing, the less support there is for changing term limits even a little, among any demographic or political category.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

"... Most of us in the middle class would say we are overtaxed and those in the upper income brackets pay up to 39% of their income in federal tax..." One central idea behind jacking up taxes on the wealthy is to reduce the tax burden carried by the middle class and the poor. Under Eisenhower and Kennedy/Johnson, the highest income brackets paid more than double the roughly 35% they pay now. It's important that they begin to pay that again. These folks hold so much wealth that very steep tax rates don't meaningfully cramp their lifestyles. Whether set at 35% or 80%, the rate has little real impact. But we're discussing state taxation here, not federal. Any graduated state income tax in the future will be vastly more limited in scope than its federal counterpart. In California, I think the rates tops out near 10%. If the rich wish to leave Michigan due to enactment of a graduated tax, then good riddance. However, should they leave, they'll find that 33-34 other U.S. states already apply a graduated income tax. Michigan is rather backwards on this count. ------------ "... By her doing this, she will create more limited government activists...." Limited government under capitalism  =  Autocractic rule by corporate barons Limited government activists  =  Useful flunkies for the very wealthy Interestingly, "limited government activists" frequently championed police state policies, along with near-zero toleration for political dissent, back when Bush Jr. was in the White House and the GOP had full control of Congress.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

@stun: If they pay 53% of all taxes, that just proves that they have a ludicrous amount of money as a group. I don't think it's powerful to use their giant share of the communal pie as reason to feel sorry for them.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

@stun: If they pay 53% of all taxes, that just proves that they have a ludicrous amount of money as a group. I don't think it's powerful to use their giant share of the communal pie as reason to feel sorry for them.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

leaguebus said: "Stunhsif, the top 5% made about 34% of all income in this country. Poor babies!" And they pay 53.25% of all taxes,so you help me make my point "leaguebus. The top 5% make 34% of the total income but they pay over 53% of all taxes. But that isn't enough for the socialists in Ann Arbor. I am not in the top 5% (certainly wish I was) but I believe they more than pay their fair share! Tax them more and they will simply create fewer jobs, work less and move out of this state, taking their jobs, incomes and the taxes they pay elsewhere! Good Day No Luck Needed

Jay Thomas

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

Will this 300,000 be used to pay her a salary or is she working pro bono? Sounds like she needs a job but doesn't have any useful skills in the private sector so she just wants to continue politicking on someone else's dime...


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

The top twenty per cent have ninety three per cent of the nations wealth. How can the middle class pay more in taxes? The bottom forty per cent have no wealth at all. Maybe the upper class should quit whining and just be thankful for all that they have.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

stunhsif: where do you draw the lines between middle class, lower middle class, etc? Your stats seem way off.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

Stunhsif, the top 5% made about 34% of all income in this country. Poor babies! Michigan will go broke without raising taxes. Locally, state revenue sharing and property taxes are way down, we are losing police, fire personnel and teachers. I know they all make too much money, but a teacher or criminal justice major, who graduates from a state university should come out with about $70000 in debt and lowering their pay will just drive them away from the state. Alma has the right idea as did Illinois, if we don't raise more revenue, we will lose all the things that we have been building since World War II. As we go down hill, more will leave for other states and these are usually the ones that we can least afford to lose. Sorry, the days of mindless tax cuts are almost over, except for the Snyder $1.5 B from business. He wants to create more jobs, but it takes seed money to make more jobs, where is this going to come from?

rusty shackelford

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

While I appreciate that a few of the comments in opposition to Ms. Smith have been a least somewhat thoughtful, overall this comment thread is an excellent argument against democracy.

David Parker

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

Alma: this is why we have term limits. force new blood. MI biz taxes have been driving biz out of state. just a fact.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

I hope the liberals stay in power so that I can buy all the beer and cheesepuffs I want on my bridgeCard. Why wouldn't I? It's free money right?

charles mancherian

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

ear Alma, Raise taxes, like the people in Michigan can afford more taxes with our huge unemployment condition. You must not have heard the latest election results. Michigan voters don't want more taxes wasted by the State. They want less spending and business incentives. Wake up, Alma. You're still living prior to 850,000 Michiganders losing their jobs!


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

As a former constituent of Alma Smith, I am glad to see that she has stuck her statist neck out again. By her doing this, she will create more limited government activists and only help our cause of freeing people from the excesses and tyrannies of government. Thank you Mrs. Smith.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

Speechless said: "It's time to stop financing the state on the backs of the poor and the lower middle class. The wealthy make out like bandits more than ever and, as a group, will never willingly pay their fair share to help fund state programs." ROFL after reading your entire post. The poor pay no federal tax and almost no taxes at all. The lower middle class pays no federal tax and very little tax at all. Most of us in the middle class would say we are overtaxed and those in the upper income brackets pay up to 39% of their income in federal tax. What do you pay Speechless, not 39% I am guessing. I have a friend who pays more in federal tax than what I gross and he doesn't piss and moan about it. BTW-what would consider a "fair share" for the rich to pay. And what do you consider rich? The top 5% of income earners pay 53.25% of all income taxes that is a fact, yet you think they should pay more? Alma Wheeler just wants to take more of their money. Do that and the rich will leave Michigan and find a lower tax state which they have already been doing. Texas would be a perfect example.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

The experiment with term limits has failed. End it now.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

Lots of criticism here, but no ideas.

John B.

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

A straight pecentage Income Tax (4.35% currently, in our case) is regressive, by definition. That's Econ. 101. The Federal Income Tax is graduated - it is common sense that ours should be too.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

This project sounds great!  It's appropriately ambitious, and I hope Alma gets it off the ground in time for the 2012 general election. By then, Michigan residents will more fully realize that major, draconian cuts in state services, combined with ever-lower corporate taxes, does them precious little good. Since the hard right in the GOP has temporarily nailed down control of the state legislature — limited only by the possibility of a veto from the relatively more moderate Gov. Snyder — then why not go around them and appeal directly to Michigan voters? Switch to a political terrain where the wingnuts cannot easily exercise direct control over the public. It's time to stop financing the state on the backs of the poor and the lower middle class. The wealthy make out like bandits more than ever and, as a group, will never willingly pay their fair share to help fund state programs. Pathologically, they want to keep it all for themselves only, and the various anti-Wheeler comments up above clearly reflect that. Michigan residents will have to utilize direct democracy to make them pay a more equitable share. ------------ Even modestly adjusting term limts to allow 12 years in each chamber of the state legislature, rather than 6 and 8 years, will considerably relieve the problems created by the constant high turnover of lawmakers. Currently, the prime beneficiaries of such turnover are the more well-heeled Lansing lobbyists and the special business interests they typically represent. As a result, while so many Michigan residents and small businesses struggle with flat taxes, corporations may receive big tax breaks and other entitlements.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

UNLESS u get rid of the liars thieves and cheats that inhabit governmental offices no change will be possible.That means almost all have to go then u change the law so that no elected or appointed official can serve MORE THAN four years and once their 48 months are in they can NEVER serve AGAIN in any OFFICE and this includes everybody who gets a paycheck from any governmental agency.NO EXCEPTIONS NO one may double dip meaning going from one agency to the other. wages get cut dramatically i.e the legislature only works,at beat,part time so they get paid 1/2 of what they're making now and ALL benefits stop when u leave office. Let's start there and see what happens


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

Alma Smith is not a public servant, she is a public parasite. She wants to ( and has) made the taxpayers her servants. Good riddance Alma, thank goodness for term limits!

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:39 p.m.

Again, you guys hate Democracy unless you win! We the people elect our "public servants"!


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 11:35 a.m.

This is a great example of why we need term limits on the federal level as well... People like Dingell being in congress since the 1950's is outrageous. Some people have no shame.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 11:16 a.m.

The only term limits this state needs is my vote in or out. The reason Dingell is in office is because the people voted him in, done, finished.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 11:06 a.m.

I applaud Mrs. Wheeler for her honesty and her continued services for the citizens of Michigan. I agree with her that a graduated income tax is the only way the state can can get back in good financial standing. It is literarily insane to think that these money woes is simply going to go away without us coming together to take a bold and a realistic approach to the situation. Jennifer has served her term and did the best she could with the garbage Mr. Engler left behind. We all must come together (Repubs and Dems) and the citizens of Michigan as a whole if we are to move this state forward. Please for the future of this state and for the children sake, take out time to listen to the wise voice of common sense. I would suggest that we all get our cocky-egos and our old ways of thinking out of the way....


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 10:56 a.m.

Ms Smith and her style of politics and her ideology are a prime example of why the State of Michigan is in such poor shape today. And she and her family are not prime example of "public servants', but prime examples of making careers in politics, and feeding off the Government trough.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 10:49 a.m.

@ SH1: The purpose of government is to protect the people, not care for them and make them wards of the state. They closed the state hospitals, where did that money go. We need term limits to guard against people like Dingell.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 10:19 a.m.

I think the "No taxes ever for any reason" crowd needs to come up with a solution to the deficit and budget crises. I know you'd like to start by cutting salaries of public workers, but that won't cover it.

Eileen Peck

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 10:07 a.m.

What she said: 1. Smith: I don't believe in government by initiative... " 2. $300,000 gets a few people working, but it doesn't get the kind of monetary commitment we need to get an initiative mounted. 3. When you have to work through a democratic process... things get bogged down and don't happen. What she meant: 1. From my hundreds of years in Lansing, I can tell you, this is how to get something you want. 2. I have some money, and money = influence, therefore I have more influence in Lansing than the average person does. When I get even more money, I will have more influence, and I can represent my own interests without even having to give lip service to to what other people want, or to what's best for the state, or what the elected officials are trying to do to make the state a better place. 3. When I can't get what I want playing by the rules, I go outside the rules, because what I want is more important than what you want, and I think I have the money to make it happen.

Joel A. Levitt

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 10:03 a.m.

@DennisP: First, if you are dissatisfied with your township's governance, stop grumbling and instead become politically active. Second, we have obtained qualified public employees at lower salaries by contracting to pay future benefits.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:50 a.m.

The only people who don't have term limits are the lobbyist and special interest groups. I would like to see my vote have equal foot with them again - abolish term limits, set our rep up with the potential of having long term relationships. Our house and sentate have been utter failures since term limits were voted in. Income tax. State needs revenue to provide even the minimal services it provides now. Sooo - instead of trying to balance the budget on the backs of the working poor and middle class, I do believe that those who have done well in this state should pay more, no question. If, as Snyder has indicated, he is going to turn our state completely over to business interests by continuing to reduce our already low (but poorly structured) business taxes, then we are gonna need an income tax.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:50 a.m.

She is why we have TERM limits, as far as a pension I did not vote her one. She should move to California with Nancy.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:40 a.m.

"I think many of the initiatives, including the term-limits initiative, were introduced by people who had no sense of what the responsibilities of state government are and how state government works." It's incredible how this woman just doesn't get it. It's precisely because people KNOW how government works that term limits were passed. I'm sure she's a nice person, but--in her mind--the fact that she cannot make a lifetime career out of the Legislature apparently gnaws at her. Apparently, she feels she left her mission of a graduated income tax undone on the floor of the Legislature and now must try to undo the expressed will of the citizenry to achieve her life's mission of bigger, more influential government with better pensions for herself and public unions. For those who say we need to pay for services, I say, I don't mind paying fairly for services. But, are taxes don't go to services anymore. They go to public pension and benefit funds, to redistribution, to Washington, to regulation of everything from toilets to toys. My township doesn't even pick up the garbage--I have to pay a private company for that (which I prefer)--but it has boards and commissions up the wazoo that do nothing but stonewall and tell citizens what they can't do unless the file permits and fees and applications and appeals. I have to pay a storm sewer maintenance fee although I live in a sub where there are no storm sewers--only catch basins. I've never seen any maintenance done on those. But, if you want to see a group that can pass ordinances, pay consultants big money to revise master plan after plan and change zoning laws with nary a bit of notice, you've got it. Those are the services I pay for. These are the same types of "leaders" who end up getting sued by a developer and losing million-dollar judgments that saddle taxpayers with big tax burdens to pay the judgments. When politicians learn that they are indeed servants and not "leaders" then, maybe, we will return to a truly representative form of government and not a special interests quid pro quo. Sorry Ms. Smith, but you're gone for a reason.

Dog Guy

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:34 a.m.

Term limits should be amended to make politicians' state pensions contingent on their ceasing to legislate when out of office.

Olan Owen Barnes

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:23 a.m.

I do not support her efforts and I hope she fails! There is a reason she lost her bid for higher office and is too much spending and too mush taxation proposals. BTW - term limits are a wonderful thing to behold.

Tony Livingston

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:04 a.m.

I have so much respect for Alma Wheeler Smith -- and her whole family for that matter. They are public servants in the true sense. Her proposal makes a lot of sense. I would support it even though we are in the income bracket targeted for an increase. If we want services, we have to pay for them!


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 9:03 a.m.

The Dems can't rely on the middle class as a source of revenue any more here in Michigan because it has been battered so much of late. Who is left to go after? The rich, of course. The same ones who are already shouldering most of the burden. Wouldn't a better approach be to a) increase the tax base in the middle class by increased employment and b) cut the government spending in this state? But, no, much much better to simply tax the rich all the more. At some point, that camel's back will break. That, or the camel will just run off in the middle of the night.

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:36 p.m.

I think they already have "run off in the middle of the night"!

Chase Ingersoll

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 8:53 a.m.

I'm going to forward this article on to people who are not so "totally frustrated" with politicians like Mrs. Wheeler and reporting like this, so as to be able to politely and great detail note what is wrong with Mrs. Wheeler, her positions, and a for profit media organization even bothering to assign a reporter to this when you have newly elected representatives who will be voting on any of the 80 some bills that are now pending in Lansing.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 8:19 a.m.

YUP! Sounds like she will set up a "DOO" tank alright. Democrats = more taxes = reward the unproductive = punish the successful = flee Michigan. While I don't like them in general, thank GOD for term limits in this case. We don't need any more tax and spend booty pirates. I'm surprised President Obama hasn't called you with a spending position yet.


Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 7:54 a.m.

Alma is a 60's liberal and has always looked for ways of ginning up more tax money to "save the world". Sorry Alma, your day is over accountability in government is sloooowly coming back. Let's all remember Alma was front and center during the Granholm train wreck.

Joel A. Levitt

Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 7:07 a.m.

Wonderful! Great! Finally! I volunteer! Call on me now! Ms Smith proposed a graduated income tax when she was seeking to run for Governor, and she continues to work to save our state now. No walking advertising agency she she is candid and honest through and through. We are very lucky to have such a leader.