Opinion
10:26 am
Fri January 31, 2014

It's irresponsible for Michigan lawmakers to push for a tax cut now

Last night I talked to Mary Lou Zieve, who is well known in Detroit as a marketing executive and supporter of the arts. I found out that we had something unpleasant in common.

During the last week, we’ve each had a tire destroyed by a pothole. Not on some unpaved road out in the country, but on suburban surface streets. I was driving forty miles an hour on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak or Birmingham, when – bang.

This cost me $250.

Our roads and streets are bad and getting worse, and our lawmakers have refused over and over again to appropriate money to fix them.

They want to give us a tax cut, which means the state will have even less money to do the things it is failing to do.

But they are now eagerly signing up for something that from a good government standpoint is the height of insanity. They want to give us a tax cut, which means the state will have even less money to do the things it is failing to do.

The Senate Finance Committee voted this week to reduce the state income tax to 3.9% over the next three years, which, when completely phased in, would leave the state with almost a billion dollars less a year than it has now.

This would mean less money for education, infrastructure, and even more potholes.

You might end up with a hundred bucks or so a year more. Good luck educating your kids and fixing your car with that. Governor Snyder wants instead to give us some kind of retroactive tax relief which would supposedly be “targeted to where it’s needed the most,” though they aren’t giving us more details.

Why are they doing this?

Well, some, like State Senator David Robertson, are spouting ideological blather like “we have a moral obligation to return dollars to the public at every opportunity.”

Well, even if you believe that, this isn’t that opportunity.

Our lawmakers have a moral and professional obligation to give us good government, and maintain the elements of civilization that belong to us all - like clean air, water, schools and roads.

Our lawmakers have a moral and professional obligation to give us good government, and maintain the elements of civilization that belong to us all – like clean air, water, schools and roads.

But ideology really has nothing to do with this tax cut. This is an election year. The governor and every non-retiring legislator have to face the voters in November. They want to be able to say – “hey, we just gave you this nice juicy tax cut. Please reelect us.”

What makes that even easier for them is term limits.

If the irresponsible tax cuts they enact today won’t produce devastatingly bad consequences for five years, guess what: Everyone now holding office will be gone.

Somebody else will have to deal with the mess.

Former Gov. John Engler was a big tax cutter in his day, but he did have principles.

Once, he was asked why he opposed the death penalty when polls showed a big majority favored it, he said “a hundred percent of them don’t want to pay taxes.”

Well, like almost everyone else, I could use more disposable income, but I want to pay taxes because I want civilization.

So lawmakers, if you want my vote, please keep your tax cut and even raise taxes if you need to, but fix the roads.

Experts have run the numbers, and financially, we would all be much better off.