Speaker defends quick income tax vote
LANSING (AP) — House Speaker Tom Leonard on Thursday defended a panel’s quick vote to gradually eliminate Michigan’s income tax, a day after Gov. Rick Snyder issued a rare rebuke of his Republican counterparts in the Legislature.
“We have been very clear that it’s one of our top issues on our agenda. It’s not a difficult bill to understand,” Leonard told reporters after helping to unveil the House GOP’s agenda for the two-year term. He said he is “very proud” of House Tax Policy Committee Chairman Jim Tedder, whose panel advanced the tax cut proposal to the House floor on Wednesday at the conclusion of one 90-minute hearing.
Snyder, who has “serious concerns” about the tax reduction’s budget implications, said he was disappointed because each representative needs time to receive feedback from residents before “making a decision on a bill that will have statewide impacts for the next 40 years.”
The legislation would reduce the 4.25 percent personal income tax to 3.9 percent in 2018. That’s where it once stood before it was raised to address a budget deficit. It would then drop it by one-tenth of a percentage point each year until the tax is gone in decades.
“The governor knows that I’m going to continue to push and fight for tax relief for the hard-working taxpayers of this state,” said Leonard, who did not indicate when the full House may vote but said the committee was deliberative and allowed supporters and opponents to weigh in.
The DeWitt Republican said the reason the GOP majority is moving swiftly is so the bill is on the table before the enactment of the state budget, which typically occurs in June. He pointed to a projected $500 million surplus and the pending expiration of economic development tax credits as ways to offset lost income taxes.
The Snyder administration, however, is warning that the “one-time” surplus will not recur every year and is citing new budget pressures on the horizon that stem from previously enacted business and other tax reductions. Leonard said the GOP is committed to fulfilling a “promise” to drop the tax back to 3.9 percent, which had been scheduled to happen until Snyder and lawmakers in 2011 froze the rate at 4.25 percent as part of an overhaul of business and other taxes.
The House “action plan” presented Thursday is not as detailed as ones outlined in past sessions. Besides the tax cut, big priorities include reducing auto insurance premiums through unspecified changes to the no-fault system, tackling public employee retirement costs and boosting skilled trades training.
The blueprint — which was crafted by 15 of the 63 House Republicans — also calls for protecting private property rights, more efficiently spending road and bridge funds, expanding public-records laws to the governor and legislators, and defending gun rights and religious liberties.
House Minority Leader Sam Singh, an East Lansing Democrat, said in a statement that GOP lawmakers are “pushing a tax plan that will require drastic cuts to our public schools, road funding and local police and firefighters. It’s time we retired this sad old playbook and put building a strong middle class first again.”