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Business Leaders Get Behind Detroit-Area Transit Tax

By David Eggert, Associated Press

MACKINAC ISLAND (AP) - Detroit-area business executives, elected officials and other leaders announced their support Wednesday for a tax increase to finance regional mass transit in four counties, saying the proposed system is vital to economic development in an area without adequate public transportation.

"I'm going to work aggressively to get this passed and to make this case. When people see the economic case for it, we'll be successful," Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said during a news conference at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual three-day Mackinac Policy Conference.

Among those joining him were Sandy Baruah, the chamber's president and CEO; Rock Ventures leader Matt Cullen; Beaumont Health Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Wilson; Macomb Community College President Jim Jacobs; and environmental and philanthropic leaders. Separately, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder told The Associated Press in an interview that he favors the tax — which he would pay as a resident of Ann Arbor.

A master plan unveiled Tuesday by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan calls for assessing a tax of 1.2 mills in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties for 20 years. The tax equates to nearly $8 a month for a house with the region's average taxable value of $78,856, according to the RTA, or an assessed value of about $158,000.

The tax proposal will appear on the November ballot. It requires a majority of the combined votes in the four-county region to pass.

The majority of the transit system would be implemented within five years. A key component would be a rail line connecting downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit, with stops in Ypsilanti, Wayne and Dearborn. There also would be bus rapid transit — including dedicated lanes, permanent stations, traffic signal preference and pre-board ticketing — from downtown Detroit to Pontiac, M-59 and Detroit Metro Airport and between downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Ypsilanti.

The RTA was created under a 2012 state law.

"We must create regional transit in order to be competitive," Cullen said. "People simply can't get to jobs, so it doesn't work from an economic perspective."

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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