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Political roundup: Income tax reduction fails and possible school closures on hold

Feb 24, 2017

First, Michigan Republican legislators proposed phasing out the income tax over a 40-year period, then that was changed to reduce it from 4.25% to 3.9% over four years. This week Michigan Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt Township brought it up for a vote and in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, it failed.

Joe Haveman, a former Republican State Representative who served as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Vicki Barnett, the former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to analyze the week's political news.

Haveman said Leonard wanted to show that a majority of Republicans were in favor of an income tax rollback. Barnett said the bill would have destabilized the entire budget.

Pundits have suggested Leonard's push for an income tax rollback is motivated by a desire to run for Attorney General. Haveman dismissed that, saying Leonard was just responding to budget realities.

"We’ve got a budget surplus," Haveman said. "We put money in our savings, and we’ve brought down pension debt. Maybe it’s time to give a little bit back to the taxpayer. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Barnett pointed to lingering problems with Michigan’s roads, infrastructure, and public schools as an indication that “we’ve balanced the budget on the backs of the infrastructure.”

School closings?

Earlier recommendations by Governor Snyder’s School Reform Office indicated 38 schools may close due to low test scores. This week, he released a statement delaying that decision.

Barnett said standards required by state laws are not met in this instance. As a result, some schools districts filed lawsuits “to say a law was passed to deal with this and you’ve not followed that law.”

Haveman said that while the bottom 5% of schools in the state need to be held accountable, closing them without a plan may not be wise.

“I think the governor made a good call,” he said.

Listen above for the full conversation.

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