Education, Labor, Michigan Republicans — December 13, 2016 at 3:04 pm

BOOM! Part 2 – Michigan Republicans back down from voter suppression bills and other terrible legislation


What started out as a typical lame duck session where legislative Republicans ram through scads of laws aimed at harming workers, restricting voting access, and benefitting corporations has started to calm down in the waning three days of the current session in Michigan. After backing down from diminishing the retirement benefits of first responders and teachers, it appears that other egregious pieces of legislation are being shelved, as well:

The usually frenetic final days of the lame duck Legislature has turned into “tame duck,” said Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof as two more controversial issues – stricter voter ID laws and anti-union picketing bills – won’t be taken up this year.

Coupled with several other issues being tabled – tax incentives for businesses and pension and health care cuts for teachers and municipal retirees – the lame duck session is shaping up as one of the less controversial ones in the last few election cycles.

Two of the bills Kathy Gray describes as “tax incentives for businesses” – Senate Bill 991 and House Bill 5928 – would have paid for these tax incentives by robbing the School Aid Fund. From the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency’s analysis:

Based on the Consumer Expenditure Survey for the Midwest region and Bureau of Economic Analysis data on consumer spending in Michigan, estimated expenditures on motor vehicle parts in Michigan totaled just under $2.2 billion in 2015. Although the portion of this amount that is made up of core charges is not known, if core charges represented 10% of total purchases of motor vehicle parts, the resulting sales tax loss would be about $13.0 million. Of this $13.0 million, the School Aid Fund would be reduced by $9.5 million, Constitutional revenue sharing to local units of government would decline by $1.3 million, Comprehensive Transportation Fund revenue would decrease by about $600,000, and the remaining $1.6 [million] reduction would be borne by the General Fund.

An almost $10 million hit to education to fund a recycling tax break surprises only people who haven’t been paying attention to Michigan Republicans over the past decade.

But that’s only a drop in the bucket to another proposal that would have pulled a whopping $425 million from the School Aid Fund, an effort that has also been abandoned:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday evening abruptly dropped his lame-duck push to pay a portion of income tax refunds out of the School Aid Fund, backing off a plan that had infuriated K-12 advocates because of a potential $425 million shift in dedicated education funding.

The Detroit News first reported on the proposal Thursday afternoon. Three hours later, the administration said Snyder had decided against pursuing the idea any further this year.
“It’s not going to happen during lame-duck,” Snyder spokesman Ari Adler told The News. “The governor has asked for it to be held. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s not the right time to do it.”

Snyder is expected to continue discussing the proposal with legislators in the next two-year legislative session, which begins in January.

An executive outline obtained by The News shows the Republican governor promoted the plan as a way to create “equitability” in how the state collects income taxes and pays out refunds, but critics said it would jeopardize a “fair and consistent” stream of funding for K-12 schools.

These victories – which may be only temporary since Republicans enjoy majorities in both the House and Senate – are the direct result of constituents making sure their Senators and Representatives know they are being watched and that the people they represent are paying attention. As I said in our podcast last night, we have to follow the model provided by the tea party: Show up, be in the email boxes and phone messages and offices of your legislators, and make sure they know how you feel. It works.

UPDATE: It appears that one bill – Senate Bill 638 – which has been described as “Citizens United on steroids“, is still under consideration so be sure you’re letting your voice be heard on that one.

You can find contact information for your Senator HERE and your Representative HERE.

[CC photo credit: Kyle J. Schultz | Flickr]