It’s getting very deep in here…
Earlier this month, I wrote about how Michigan Republicans were going to soon begin a campaign of deceit in which they attempt to convince Michigan voters that they are tax-cutting warriors determined to return budget surplus funds to the taxpayers to whom they belong. This week, House Speaker Jase Bolger began a propaganda campaign to do just that in an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press titled “Why Michigan’s surplus should go to tax cut”.
The op-ed begins with Bolger comparing criticism of their tax cut proposal to lectures “that Common Core passage or Medicaid reform were moving too slow, after complaining Michigan’s right-to-work law was passed too quickly”. This glib sentence assumes that there’s no option between ramming through controversial and politically-charged legislation with no hearings or debate and slow-walking legislation to the point that the state loses hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue due to inaction.
The crux of Bolgers argument comes in one sentence of his op-ed:
In 2011, we adopted tax reform that takes less money from Michigan taxpayers.
To the average reader, this sounds pretty fantastic. But let’s dig a bit deeper. As I’ve written about before, the average taxpayer in Michigan actually saw a tax increase after Repblicans “reforms”. In fact, over half of Michigan residents saw their taxes increase. Not only that, the tax increases had a disproportionate effect on poor Michiganders. The more wealthy you are, the less impact these tax increases had on you. Not only that, they eliminated a large number of tax breaks used to help the working poor and to benefit charitable organizations:
Other things from the report that you should know about the tax time bomb that explodes in Michigan in 2012:
- Despite continuous Republican screeching about “simplifying the tax code”, this new budget decidedly does NOT make it less complicated.
- Reduces the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the working poor from 20% to 6% of the federal credit – a 70% cut.
- Lowest 20% of income earners pay 9.1% of income in state & local taxes, top 1% pay only 5.6%.
- All major tax credits except the Homestead Property Tax Credit are now gone. Donations to food banks, shelters, and food kitchens: gone. Donations to charities: gone.
- Taxes are instituted or increased on private and public pensions for certain groups of senior citizens/retirees.
- Deduction for children in the family has been eliminated.
- Homestead Property Tax Credit (HPTC) has been taken away for over a quarter million Michiganders with incomes between $50,000 and $82,650. Seniors with incomes between $30,000 & $50,000 will have this credit reduced by 40%. Only half of the working poor that qualify for the EITC will also qualify for the HPTC.
So, how can Bolger claim that Republicans “adopted tax reform that takes less money from Michigan taxpayers”? Because corporations pay taxes, too, and corporations got a HEFTY tax cut in this “reform”. While individual taxes increased by $1.4 billion, corporate taxes decreased by almost $1.7 billion.
It’s not a lie, per se. It’s just a very careful choice of words by Speaker Bolger to convince you that Republicans have already cut your taxes when chances are very good that they haven’t. Many senior citizens have seen their pensions taxed for the first time and many of the tax breaks normally available to average Michiganders no longer exist.
Meanwhile, Speaker Bolger pays only scant lip service to the pair 2,000 pound gorillas sitting in the middle of the room.
The first gorilla is Michigan’s crumbling road and bridge infrastructure. Take a drive down any freeway this week and you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about. The recent deep freeze and thaw we’ve experienced has reduced may highways to pothole-strewn obstacle courses. An already terrible and expensive problem is only becoming worse and far MORE expensive with every passing day. Nobody disputes this but Republicans can’t bring themselves to spend money on this vital state resource and instead are talking about giving tiny rebates back to taxpayers to buy votes.
The other gorilla is the collapse of our public school system. Nearly 10% of our school districts are in deficit with over a dozen new schools added last year. Having had their budgets slashed by Republicans, they now are forced to watch as Republicans attempt to win votes by giving surplus funds back to taxpayers instead of shoring up our crucial education system. Meanwhile, our students pay the price.
All of this is shameful but par for the course for Speaker Bolger and his caucus. They are counting on you not paying attention and to believe their rewriting of history.
Please don’t let them play you for the fools they seem to think we all are.
[Republican Tax-O-Meter image courtesy of the Michigan House Democratic Caucus]