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“Special 2012 State of the State Address Edition”
Opinion by R Al Bain
Governor Snyder’s State of the State Address: The Reinvention Continues
Like a bad movie script in which “we the taxpayers” continue to subsidize Hollywood movie producers thanks to our Republican led legislature, Governor Rick Snyder laid out his plans Wednesday night for Michigan 3.0 at the state capital in Lansing. Hold onto your wallets we’re in for a wild “tax hike ride”!
Before we begin on the good Governor’s plans in this latest sequel let’s review our glorious elected officials actions of the past legislative session. Reinventing and reforming the Michigan business tax on the backs of Michigan taxpayers instead of cutting the size and scope of Michigan’s government. On May 25, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills that repeal the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) and adopt a Corporate Income Tax (CIT). These bills also make major changes to the state’s individual income tax law. HB 4361 eliminates several “individual” income tax credits, deductions and exemptions and changes future income tax rates. If Michigan was to go with a part-time legislature the savings would have more than paid for the business tax reform without the extra tax burden bestowed upon the taxpayers.
Another “blockbuster” reinvention in the past years legislative session of reforms is the taxing of pensions. Tell the current or soon to be retirees that this is a good thing. Unlike the public sector, private sector retirees do not receive the cushy Cadillac retirement packages and pensions that our elected officials receive. If workers would have know at the beginning of their working careers their pensions would be taxed they could have planned for it.
How about this reform? While looking good on the surface, cutting lawmaker benefits, would have been great for Michigan and it’s taxpayers except our lawmakers felt compelled to exempted 36 out of 38 in the Senate alone. Ask way this cut didn’t include all lawmakers, Senate Majority leader Randy Richardville stated publicly that it wouldn’t be fair to those who came into office expecting this entitlement. Ask the retirees if they think it’s fair! What’s the old saying, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander? It’s shameful that what Governor Snyder and Senator Richardville are calling accomplishments are things that are going to have such a direct negative impact on so many Michigan families. Michigan’s citizens expect and deserve better from those we elect as to represent us and unfortunately this just doesn’t seem to be the case.
Now let’s take a look at some of Governor Snyder’s proposed agenda items for the 2012 legislative session. First up – Governor Snyder is hell bent on a new government built and run bridge to Canada. While the claim is that this will not cost taxpayers, history shows us that this just isn’t true. I encourage research on the Mackinaw and Bluewater Bridge’s where the same claims were made ultimately costing taxpayers. The proposed new bridge has already cost taxpayers in more ways than one.
The introduction of two bills SB 410 and SB 411, by Senator Richardville as to create a new bridge authority that failed in committee is one such cost to the taxpayers. A 1993 Legislative Analyst report on the “Average Cost of a Bill” reveals when you add bill printing, associated publications histories, files, indexes, journals, chapters and reprints, bill room operation, Legislative Counsel services, Legislative committee staff, Department of Finance services, and Agency legislative liaison costs, the total 1991-1992 session cost was $13,733 PER BILL. Other unknown consulting fees for this proposed new bridge were paid to former Michigan Democratic Governor Jim Blanchard’s consulting firm who by the way is getting consulting fees from both sides of the river from Canada as well.
Lastly Governor Snyder made a trip to Ottawa after the bill failed in committee as to address the Canadian Parliament where he stated to the assembly “we will get a bridge built”. He also stated along with the backers of the bridge project that state taxpayers would be entirely off the hook in any event. So who covered the expenses for his trip to Ottawa for the session with Canadian officials? I’ll tell you, we the taxpayers that’s who! So it isn’t entirely true that we will be off the hook we’re already on it!
Moving right along on the reinvention agenda highway is the proposed road tax. Governor Snyder has proposed an increase to vehicle registration fees (tax) by as much as $140.00 per vehicle along with a change in the gas tax. If there’s a change proposed in the gas tax you can bet it won’t be in our best interest! Our legislators continue taking money designated for roads and moving it to the General Fund where it gets used for a variety of non-transportation related purposes. It is difficult to justify generating new revenue for roads until they stop taking away money that should be going to roads and spending it elsewhere. Otherwise, road related taxes and fees are subsidizing other programs, and it is disingenuous to ask taxpayers for more road money when we know it will not stay there.
In Michigan the 6% sales tax on gasoline, automobiles, and automobile related accessories has recently generated $1.9 billion dollars in revenue. In other states a portion of this money goes to roads, but in Michigan none of it is earmarked for that purpose. Taxpayers rightfully expect that all the taxes they pay at the pump or their equivalent should go to transportation, especially roads.” Once again, these bills take money from roads and give it to the general fund which will necessitate a tax increase on gas down the road.”
Examples of this theft of our road tax dollars as in 2009 House Bill 5072: Transfer road tax money to other purposes (Senate Roll Call 539) Passed in the Senate on October 20, 2009, to reduce the amount of infrastructure project spending from the transportation economic development fund by $12 million in the Fiscal Year that ends Sept. 30, 2009, and another $12 million in the next fiscal year. House Bill 5073 diverts this money to other state spending.
In 2011 with Senate Bill 411: Introduced by Sen. Randy Richardville on June 7, 2011, to “revise” the state road tax allocation law to accommodate the authority proposed by Senate Bill 410 to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. This would rob money from our road funds as to operate this authority. It’s bad enough that every Michigan vehicle owner has to pay $145 per vehicle per year for the Michigan Catastrophic Fee.
Finally, Governor Snyder’s proposed mandate to have insurance companies cover autism that would require (force) insurance companies to cover this disorder. If this law is passed it will require insurers to cover evidence based therapies for autism that would include screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism disorders. Any charlatan can hang out a shingle for a treatment with a big price tag and the insurance companies will be responsible for the cost. This cost will be passed onto every policy holder in the state of Michigan. Can you say rate hike? This is nothing more than an indirect “tax increase” to the citizens of Michigan.
A “Common Sense Citizens Agenda” for a better Michigan would be a part-time legislature, a severe reduction of government programs and entities, a drastic cut in government subsidies, elimination of the red tape and regulations, a tax cut for the citizens, and the general downsizing of state government as to let the free markets drive our economy.
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America ‘s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America ‘s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006!