In 1913, the Michigan legislature enacted Public Act 88 (MCL 46.161) which allows counties to levy a millage not to exceed 5 cents on each $100.00 of taxable value (50 cents per $1,000, or 0.500 mills), to promote economic activity in the county, region or state through several activities including advertising agricultural and industrial advantages, exhibiting products and industries, encouraging immigration and increased trade and advertising for tourists. The Act also specifies that a county board of commissioners may appropriate the millage funds raised to a not-for-profit organization which is engaged in advertising the advantages of conducting trade within the county, region or state. Because the legislation enabling the tax predates the Headlee amendment of 1978, the board of commissioners may levy it or adjust the rate without a ballot measure.
In recent Washtenaw County history, an Act 88 millage was first levied in 2009 at 0.04 mills, and later raised to 0.05 mills. The funds are used for a combination of agricultural development and general economic development activities, including funding for Ann Arbor SPARK, Eastern Leaders Group, Food System Economic Partnership, and Washtenaw 4-H.
Timeline: Act 88
April 14, 2016. New lawsuit alleges Washtenaw County illegally collected $24M in taxes. Ann Arbor News. "The three individual plaintiffs joining Taxpayers United in bringing the case are William Gordon, a Republican from Scio Township; Robert Guysky, a Tea Party activist from Chelsea; and Ted Annis, a Democrat from Ann Arbor."
December 3, 2015. Group threatens to sue over county taxes as board delays putting millages on ballot. Ann Arbor News. "Bill McMaster, chairman of the Taxpayers United Michigan Foundation, said his group had begun raising funds to pay for a challenge to the taxes collected for indigent veterans relief and economic development. The county has been assessing these taxes without a public vote, but a recent law passed in Lansing and an opinion by Attorney General Bill Schuette prompted the board to consider putting them up for voter approval."
October 21, 2015. Attorney General's Opinion 7287. "Levy of property taxes in excess of constitutional limitations."
23 Sept. 2012: County Board Puts Off Vote on Act 88 Tax Hike. Ann Arbor Chronicle, "After a public hearing on renewal of the millage, Chair Conan Smith proposed increasing the rate to 0.06 to fund additional economic development activities. Board members objected on amending the rate after the public hearing and postponed a decision."
October 2009 UPDATED: Washtenaw County board gives preliminary OK to small tax increase, Ryan Stanton for AnnArbor.com, "Commissioners Kristin Judge and Wesley Prater were the only ones to oppose the tax. Judge has said she wants to more closely examine the county's budget before she approves raising county taxes."
- MCL 46.161, Michigan Legislature Compiled Laws