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Benton Harbor road repair needs prompt call for income tax

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- With hopes of funding needed road repairs, Benton Harbor city commissioners approved an income tax proposal Monday night for the November ballot.

“We may be off of life support, but we’re in the recovery room,” said Benton Harbor City Commissioner Mary Alice Adams.

Adams described the roads in Benton Harbor as ‘terrible.’

“If we are to attract people into Benton Harbor to look it over and want to make it a possible future home, we can’t just focus on the downtown area,” she said. “We have to focus on the inner cities as well.”

Many of the city’s roads are beaten up and near disrepair.

That’s why city commissioners voted Monday night to include an income tax proposal on the ballot this fall.

If passed by voters, it would mean city residents and businesses pay a 1-percent tax on their income.

For people who work in Benton Harbor but don’t live in the city, they’d have to pay 0.5-percent of the money they earn at their job.

The tax would raise about $2 million each year, according to estimates, that would primarily go toward infrastructure.

But a similar proposal was voted down in 2013.

“When it failed the last time, from that period of time up until now, my constituents have been asking me, ‘Why did we not pass it?’” Adams said. “And I have to let them know that that’s where you all come in.”

Adams said local leaders are hoping to inform voters of their option over the next few months.

But there’s already opposition.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Helen Adams.

Adams has owned Helena’s Boutique in downtown Benton Harbor for four years.

She said even a 1-percent income tax would hurt her and many like her because she said a lot of local businesses are either starting off, or are just managing to survive.

“We [are] already paying so much, a quarter, on the taxes for our sales tax,” Helen Adams said. “Then we have to turn around and do that kind of tax? We won’t be able to make it!”

Commissioner Adams said the city gets some state and federal money for things like roads, but she said it just doesn’t stretch far enough.

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad was not available for an interview Tuesday, but he wrote about the proposal on his Facebook page Monday night, saying in part, “If you vote no that means you want something for nothing…the choice is yours.”

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