As Michigan’s leaders muse over how to apportion an estimated $970 million budget surplus, one lawmaker isn’t wasting any time. Rep. Scott Dianda (D-110) introduced legislation today to repeal an unpopular pension tax instituted by the Snyder administration designed offset sizable corporate tax cuts. HB- 5219 was referred to the House Committee on Tax Policy — where it will likely be retired itself.
Dianda, from Calumet, was the sole sponsor of the bill. He explained his legislation thus:
“Punishing seniors who are already struggling to make ends meet is wrong. The pension tax has made life difficult for a lot of seniors in the U.P. who have worked hard their whole lives and are now surviving off a fixed income. I will do everything in my power to see that it’s repealed.”
Republicans have been chomping at the bit to dispose of the budgetary windfall in the form of tax cuts, so it will be interesting to hear their various excuses for not getting on board with a little something for the state’s retirees. Often, when Republicans say “tax cuts”, what they really mean is corporate welfare, or at the very least, tax cuts for “job creators”. The governor’s budget director, John Nixon, was quick to tell media that tax cuts were a foregone conclusion:
“Obviously whenever you have this much revenue, a tax cut or tax relief is inevitable, and that makes sense.”
He went on to explain that other priorities will also be taken into consideration.
True, there will be plenty of pressure to address the issues of education and roads funding, and Gov. Snyder, in clandestine campaign mode, would be a fool to submit a budget to the legislature next month without serious mention of some of the more moderate issues. His staff has opted to hold-off, for as long as possible, announcing his bid for re-election, so the governor’s actions appear less craven, and more gubernatorial. In the end though, it’s the Republican-led House and Senate that get to make the final budgetary call — and all 146 of their seats are up for grabs in November too. Therefore, Snyder can submit a completely unrealistic pie-in-the-sky budget proposal without a worry. All politics really are local.
Does this mean lawmakers will run to the right for fear of being “primaried” by a Tea Party candidate?
Funny you should ask — it seems when it comes to core fiscal policies, Democrats and Republicans are measurably neck-and-neck. The much reviled Mackinac Center for Public Policy maintains a database on a variety of metrics that interest their conservative funders. Among them is the Michigan Tea Party Scorecard — an evaluation of the voting records of all lawmakers based on key fiscal issues. Their study avoids the trap of becoming lost circling an endless cul-de-sac of social-conservative issues — with no mention of guns, gays or girl-parts. Yet, while the authors offer a fiscal score on each individual lawmaker, they fail to make any party-to-party comparisons. So, Democracy Tree did, based on their numbers. Here’s the breakdown:
- Senate Democrats had an average score of 23.75 percent
- Senate Republicans average was 23.54 percent
- House Democrats scored an average of 36.75 percent
- House Republicans came in at 39.65 percent
And, which lawmaker won the top score of the Tea Party fiscal responsibility contest? Drum roll please…None other than Democrat — Rep. Scott Dianda, with a stellar 64 percent. Bringing up the rear, the worst scores were handed-out to the following Republicans: Rep. Ben Glarden (14%), Sen. Geoff Hansen (11%), and Sen. Casperson, Jones, Kahn and Marleau (16%).
Yep, you can bet they’re gonna run to the right — sooo far…it’ll read “here be dragons”.
Of interest, the Mackinac Center report had this at the bottom: DISCLAIMER: This report was prepared by a user of the www.michiganvotes.org site. The www.michiganvotes.org site is not responsible for the scores, nor the preferred vote.
Sure, whatever — don’t stand-by the data reported.
In the scheme of things, $970 million isn’t a lot of money to fix potholes or educate Michigan’s kids, no matter how responsibly spent. But it does have the power to sway votes. The governor will likely hedge his bets and, staying true to form, tie the funds directly to his corporate-inspired “best practices”, thereby forcing schools and municipalities to further privatize and renegotiate contracts if they want a piece of that pie.
Struggling Michiganders will see little, if any, of the crumbs.
UPDATE: Sunday, Jan. 19,2014. Michigan Public Radio reports Gov. Snyder told the Detroit News that he will not reconsider the pension tax in spite of the surplus.