After taking flak for his stance on mass transit, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said it would be “insane” for his region to participate in the new transportation plan proposed by neighboring counties because his county’s taxpayers would pay more than those in dozens of suburb.

In an interview with Deadline Detroit, Hackel defended Macomb’s decision to stay out of the partnership announced Monday by officials from Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, including Detroit, which would create a new tax to get the fledgling Regional Transit Authority (RTA) rolling.

All 27 Macomb municipalities pay the current tax for the suburban bus system, Hackel explained, while about 50 cities and townships in Wayne and Oakland have opted out. If a new tax plan is forthcoming, Macomb would pay two taxes – one for the bus system and another for an expanded regional mass transit network – while the opt-out communities would pay one.

“This is insane,” the Democratic executive said. “Nobody would go for this. That, in itself, would be a deal breaker.”

The plan would rely on a change in state law by the Republican-controlled Legislature that would allow the counties, now with Washtenaw in the mix, to launch a ballot proposal in November 2020 that would collectively generate property tax revenues to fund the RTA. Individual communities would not have an opt-out provision.

It seems clear that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans decided to bypass Macomb after Hackel has spent two years asserting that Macomb would gain relatively little from a second layer of regional transit services. Also, it should be much easier to get an RTA tax passed if Macomb is cut out of the picture.

This is an excerpt from a column I wrote for Deadline Detroit.

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