Politics & Government

Politics
4:07 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

More revenue than expected for Michigan's next fiscal year

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January.

That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services.

That came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing.

State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs.

“What we’ll do is with the one-time money, we’ll look for one-time expenditures," said Nixon. Budget Stabilization Fund is obviously a piece, a good place to put one-time money, as well some of the other spending pressures we have in the budget.”

Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

Nixon says he doesn't think that will mean radical shifts in the budget bills lawmakers hope to finish by month's end.

The budget news accompanies forecasts that Michigan’s economy will continue to grow at a slow pace – with many of the new jobs coming from higher-paying fields. Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped again in April, hitting 8.3 percent.

When people who have quit looking for work are counted, as well as ­part-time workers who’d like to be full-time, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 17.8  percent.

Politics
11:59 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Will Gov. Snyder turn back his salary this year too?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder turned back all but $1 of his pay last year, but he's not sure what he'll do this year.

Since there's no mechanism for the state to withhold his paychecks, the governor still receives his $159,300 salary.

He told reporters Wednesday that he's "going to do something different this year" but doesn't yet have a figure in mind.

Snyder quipped that he plans to "check with my wife" before settling on one.

The Republican governor announced in his 2011 budget address that he'd work for $1 during his first year in office as part of the "shared sacrifice" needed to balance the books.

State workers are scheduled to get a 1 percent raise in October, but also will start paying 20 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Commentary
10:24 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Commentary: Defector’s Ethics

It’s rare for a politician to switch political parties, but not all that rare. Don Riegle, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, was originally elected to Congress from Flint as a Republican.

After six years in office, he switched and became a Democrat during the Watergate scandal. Naturally, he wasn’t very popular with his former Republican friends. But you have to say this for him. He did so more than a year before the next election.

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News Roundup
8:23 am
Wed May 16, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Michigan’s Budget

A conference today at the state Capitol will determine how much money the Legislature will have to work with for the current and upcoming fiscal years. “Preliminary estimates suggest the state is in for a windfall adding up to tens of millions of dollars. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he’s not interested in committing that money to new spending. He says the surplus is not all that big compared to the total budget… The Legislature has set a target of having the budget wrapped up by June 1st,” Rick Pluta reports.

GOP Senate Candidates

Yesterday was the deadline for candidates seeking state or federal offices to file to run in Michigan. And, it looks like the state’s Republican U.S. Senate primary will be crowded as five candidates have filed nominating petitions. They are former judge Randy Hekman, businessman Peter Konetchy, co-author of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions Gary Glenn, former-congressman Pete Hoekstra and charter school CEO Clark Durant. The winner of the August 8th primary will face Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in November.

Anti-Fracking Ballot

People who oppose a form of oil and gas drilling known as "fracking" are officially launching a petition drive to ban the practice in the state. Tracy Samilton reports:

"Horizontal hydraulic fracturing" uses slant drilling to inject chemicals or water into rocks to fracture them, in order to extract oil or natural gas. LuAnne Kozma is the campaign's director. She says fracking uses toxic chemicals that can contaminate water. A spokesman for a company with exploratory wells in Michigan says the state has some of the most rigorous safety regulations in the nation for fracking. Petition organizers must get more than 322,000 signatures by July 9th, to get the issue on the November ballot.

Politics
7:59 am
Wed May 16, 2012

The Week in Michigan Politics

allieosmar Flickr

Every week we check in with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get an update on what's happening in state politics. On tap for this week:

The state holds a revenue estimating conference today... we'll get a better idea of how much money the state will take in and the political consequences of a possible budget surplus. Yesterday was the filing deadline for candidates who want to run for many local and statewide elections. We ask: who's in, who's out, and what were the big surprises. And, a petition drive is underway to ban"fracking" in the state constitution.

Election 2012
7:51 am
Wed May 16, 2012

MI GOP Senate primary could be crowded

Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra is one of five candidates running in the GOP's August 8th Senate primary
Republican Conference Flickr

Five candidates have filed to run in Michigan’s Republican U.S. Senate primary. Yesterday was the deadline for candidates for most state and federal offices to submit their petitions to appear on the August primary ballot.

The campaign is already underway as the five GOP hopefuls appeal to prospective Republican primary voters. They’re arguing over who is the most conservative and who presents the best chance for the GOP to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Retired judge Randy Hekman says he’ll put his conservative credentials up against anyone else in the field.

“We’ve got 90 days to show who we are, how we differ from others, how we’re going to fix our country, move ahead and win this thing," Hekman says.

Former congressman Pete Hoekstra, charter school CEO Clark Durant, businessman Pete Kontechy, and Gary Glenn – co-author of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions — have also filed.

“Jobs is going to be the Number One issue that I’m going to be talking about, but then you’ve also got some cultural issues. President Obama did me a favor last week when he came out and endorsed so-called homosexual marriage," Glenn says.

Their petition signatures still need to be officially counted and certified. Candidates also have until Friday to change their minds about putting their names on the ballot.

Politics
2:06 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Projections: Less money for Michigan in next fiscal year

Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The House and Senate fiscal agencies have come out with their revenue estimates ahead of Wednesday's revenue estimating conference, and the news isn't all good.

Both say they expect the state general fund to take in less revenue in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 than it will this year as companies pay less money because of the business tax cut that took effect early this year.

They expect the drop to be bigger than they forecast in January.

Next fiscal year's school aid revenues may be slightly higher than forecast.

The directors of the House and Senate fiscal agencies will meet Wednesday with state Treasurer Andy Dillon to set revenue estimates lawmakers will use as they finish work on the budget for the upcoming year.

Commentary
10:22 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Commentary: Robbing the poor

A year ago, in their zeal to give businesses an enormous tax cut, the governor and the legislature considered virtually eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. In the end, they didn’t quite kill it. Instead, they merely took most of it away.

When they did, there was hardly a whimper of protest from the Democrats. About the only group which seemed upset was the non-profit and non-partisan Michigan League for Human Services.

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News Roundup
9:07 am
Tue May 15, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

The Impact of EITC Cuts

A new report says Michigan's low-income working families will pay an estimated $244 million more in state income taxes next year due to reductions in the state's earned income tax credit, the Associated Press reports. “The Michigan League for Human Services released a report yesterday that shows the state earned income tax credit in 2009 reduced taxes for low-income families by $349 million. That savings will drop to $104 million for 2012,” the AP explains. A spokeswoman with the League says the tax credits boost the economy because poor families spend the money right away.

Political Ad Buys

Five politically conservative groups appear to be pooling their money to buy political ads on Michigan TV stations. Lester Graham reports:

The public files of Michigan’s TV stations reveal four different political non-profits and a super PAC are taking turns buying ads critical of President Obama.  Rich Robinson, with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, keeps track of this kind of political spending. Often this political money is reported nowhere else. “Millions of dollars have been spent in Michigan, characterizing the Obama administration and its policies, and there will be no accountability for who's behind that,” Robinson says. Most of the groups do not have to reveal who their donors are. Record-breaking amounts of money are expected to be spent in an attempt to influence voters this election year.

MI Budget Boost

A new report says Michigan is collecting more in tax revenues than previous guessed. Steve Carmody reports:

The state House Fiscal Agency reports that revenues in the General Fund and School Aid Fund are running nearly $200 million higher than previously estimated for this fiscal year. The agency predicts revenues will also be slightly higher in the next fiscal year. “General Fund revenues are fluctuating more than school aid. It does appear at this time that there may be more money in school aid,” says Ari Adler, the spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger. Adler says legislative leaders hope to pass a budget for next year by the end of the month. The next fiscal year begins October 1st.

Politics
4:44 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Report: State of Michigan collecting more tax revenues than predicted

Michigan state capitol building
Steve Carmody

A new report says Michigan is collecting more in tax revenues than previous guessed.

The state House Fiscal Agency reports that revenues in the General Fund and School Aid Fund are running nearly 200 million dollars higher than previously estimated for this fiscal year.

The agency predicts revenues will also be slightly higher in the next fiscal year.

“General Fund revenues are fluctuating more than school aid. It does appear at this time that there may be more money in school aid,” says Ari Adler, the spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger.   “But again, these are revenue estimates. We’ll know more on Wednesday when they have the final Revenue Estimating conference for this year. And we can get a better handle on how much money we’re expected to have.”

Adler says legislative leaders hope to pass a budget for next year by the end of the month. The next fiscal year begins October 1st.

Politics
3:28 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Report breaks down impact of earned income tax credit by legislative district

The Michigan League for Human Services is pressuring lawmakers in Michigan who voted last year cut tax credits for working poor families.

The earned income tax credit - or EITC - gives people who would qualify for welfare an incentive to go to work instead. There's a federal credit, and one offered at the state level too. But the state credit was reduced last year in a budget-cutting move.

The reduced tax credit allows families who qualify to claim 6-percent of the federal earned income credit on their 2012 state taxes. In the past, families could claim 20-percent.

Judy Putnam is with the Michigan League for Human Services; a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group. She says the tax credits boost the economy because poor families spend the money right away.

 "Whereas a business or an upper-income tax payer you know getting tax breaks they don’t automatically go and spend that money,” Putnam said.

The organization has published a report it hopes will convince Republicans to restore the earned income tax credit. The report outlines the legislative districts with the most residents affected by the change. 

Here's the breakdown by state senator's district; while another set here break the data down by state representatives. 

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Politics
2:23 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Filing deadline nears for Michigan's U.S. Senate candidates

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Clark Durant is followed down the street by his suporters, as he pushes boxes containing thousands of petition signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State's Office
Steve Carmody

Tomorrow is the deadline for U-S Senate candidates in Michigan to file their petition signatures with the Secretary of State to get on the August primary ballot.

 

Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow is seeking reelection. A large crowd of Republican candidates is expected to be on the primary ballot.

Former west Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra filed his petition signatures last month.

Republican candidate Clark Durant filed his petitions today. The charter schools advocate says Michigan voters are ready to reject career politicians.

“People are tired of career politicians whether they be Republicans or Democrats,” says Durant

Durant has been actively involved with Republican politics for three decades, including previous unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate and the Michigan Supreme Court.

News Roundup
8:35 am
Mon May 14, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 14th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Individual Tax Cut?

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says a tax rollback for individual filers could be part of an overall plan to cut taxes for manufacturers. “The state Senate has approved a proposed phase-out of the tax on most manufacturing equipment. The package now goes to the state House. House Speaker Jase Bolger says he wants to roll into it a reduction in the state income tax or some other tax on individuals. Calley says he and Gov. Snyder are open to the idea. Democrats have complained that the tax reductions enacted by Republicans in Lansing over the past year and a half have all been directed at businesses,” Rick Pluta reports.

Pure Michigan

The Obama Administration wants to step up efforts to promote the U.S. as an international tourism destination and that’s welcome news to the folks who run the “Pure Michigan” campaign. Steve Carmody reports:

Michigan tourism officials know people from foreign countries come here to vacation, but they don’t know how many. And that’s important to know when they’re planning how to spend the “Pure Michigan” campaign’s $25 million advertising budget. This year, only about one percent, or about $250,000, is being spent to promote Michigan as a tourism destination in Europe, mainly in England and Germany. Nothing is being spent in Asia. Right now, the “Pure Michigan” campaign is focusing on regional promotions with some national ads, .and “a modest effort” in Canada.

Northern MI Wildfire

Officials say two wildfires in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula burned nearly 400 acres before being brought under control by fire crews, the Associated Press reports. “WWTV/WWUP reports the first fire started in Ogemaw County's Foster Township and burned about 125 acres on Sunday. The second fire was about four miles away and burned about 250 acres. No injuries were reported. People along a mile-long section of roadway near the first fire were evacuated Sunday but since have returned home. There's no word of structure damage.The cause of the fires is under investigation,” the AP explains.

State Legislature
6:39 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Lt. Gov Calley: Individual tax cut could be part of business tax rollback

Matthileo Flickr

An election year tax cut could be in the offing for individual filers in Michigan.

State House Republican leaders want to bring that into the discussions on phasing out a tax on industrial equipment.

Democrats in Lansing have hammered Republicans with the complaint that tax reforms enacted over the past year and a half have all been directed at helping businesses, while many of the exemptions and deductions enjoyed by individual filers have been scrapped.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says a tax rollback for individuals and families has not yet been put on the table, but he and Governor Rick Snyder are open to the idea if that’s what the Legislature’s GOP leadership wants.

Calley says he hopes a debate over reducing the income tax or some other tax cut for individuals does not slow down a tax rollback that would encourage more investment in manufacturing in Michigan.

Politics
1:23 pm
Sun May 13, 2012

Union rally Monday for Rep. John Conyers

Union supporters of veteran Congressman John Conyers are holding a re-election rally Monday for the Detroit Democrat. The 82-year-old is seeking a 24th term in the House and faces several challengers in the Aug. 7 party primary.

The group Working Families for Southeast Michigan says its rally is set for 5-8 p.m. at the Michigan Conference-Teamsters hall in Detroit.

Others in the Democratic race in the 13th District include state Sens. Glenn Anderson of Westland and Bert Johnson of Highland Park, and state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit.

Conyers is the second-most senior member of the House, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

President Barack Obama endorsed Conyers in February.

It's Just Politics: Extended Edition
6:01 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Senate passes PPT; a MI Supreme Court justice's real estate woes; and a state Rep. calls it quits

Every Friday Rick Pluta and I take a look at state politics in It's Just Politics (you can check out this week's edition here.) But, it can be pretty darn hard to fit all of the week's political stories into just five minutes.

So, if you're as much of a political junkie as we both are, take a listen to an extended version of It's Just Politics.

On tap for this afternoon: the politics behind the state Senate's vote to rollback Michigan's personal property tax, the controversy surrounding Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway's sketchy-looking real estate deals, and allegations that state Representative Lisa Brown fired an employee for being pregnant.

Government
5:38 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan Gov. declares "state of emergency" after storms and flooding

user tanakawho Flickr

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder declared a "state of emergency" in Genesee County following the severe flooding near Flint, Michigan on May 3 and 4.

The declaration makes state resources available to help with damage resulting from the storms and flooding.

Federal resources could follow.

More from the Governor's office:

The declaration, outlined in a proclamation, was requested by local officials and will ensure that all possible resources, in accordance with the Michigan Emergency Management Plan, are provided to assist local response efforts.

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Politics
4:40 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Snyder wants e-retailers to collect Michigan sales tax

user Kcdtsg wikimedia commons

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is appealing to lawmakers in Washington to make online retailers collect state sales tax.

Melissa Anders from MLive.com reports that Gov. Snyder sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders this week expressing his support for the Marketplace Fairness Act. The law would require companies doing business online to calculate sales tax based on customer location and collect the taxes on behalf of states.

Governor Snyder reportedly sees the law as "a way to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar shops and online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com," Anders writes.

In the letter, Snyder also sights fiscal concerns:

"The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates that total revenue lost to e-commerce and mail-order purchases will amount to $872 million during fiscal years 2012 and 2013...it is crucial that the state has the tools to fairly collect the revenue that it is owed. The Marketplace Fairness act would provide states with the authority to do just that."

Michigan residents are already required to pay a "use tax" of 6 percent on their income tax returns for purchases made online. But it's difficult to enforce and few taxpayers heed the rule.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

It's Just Politics
4:02 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Governor Snyder thinks Michigan's economy is improving; Mitt Romney: Not so much

It's Just Politics, May 11th, 2012
Gage Skidmore Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta and I take a look at the politics of taking credit for a good economy. Governor Snyder says Michigan's economy is improving but that's not the story that Mitt Romney wants to tell.

Zoe Clark: Rick, I have a great idea for this week's show!

Rick Pluta: Actually, Zoe, I think maybe it was someone else’s idea first.

Mitt Romney: “So, I’ll take a lot of credit...”

RP: That’s our cheap setup for the fact that Mitt Romney paid a visit to Michigan this week.

ZC: Indeed, he campaigned this week at Lansing Community College.

RP: Prior to hitting the ground here in Lansing, Romney gave an interview with an Ohio TV station, where he said President Obama really followed his plan - the Romney plan - for the bailout of the auto industry.

ZC: And, so, there’s this disconnect. Was the bailout bad? Or, wasn’t it? Governor Rick Snyder – a Romney supporter -- says it’s time to just stop talking about it.

Rick Snyder: “I think too much time is spent on the whole bailout question. It worked, it's done, it's over with. There's  other ways it probably could have been done. But, the point is it was successful."

RP: So, move on, folks. There’s nothing more to see here. Let’s change the subject. And this speaks to the sometimes awkward dance between governors and presidential candidates -- when they are from the same political party.  Rick Snyder is telling people things are looking up.

Snyder: “Now, if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”

RP: The “comeback state,” outpacing the nation in job creation, manufacturing on the rise. And Mitt Romney?

Romney: “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing and frankly they've been hard on the people of America. “

ZC: Not hearing that relentless positivity there.

RP: This guy’s harshin’ my mellow. 

ZC: Rick Snyder does say there’s more work to be done. That Washington needs a healthy dose of what’s working in Michigan. But that’s not Romney’s message.

RP: Right. Where Rick Snyder says life is good and getting better, Mitt Romney says you’re worse off than you might have been. It’s not good, and whatever might be good is going to head south without some change.  

ZC: This dichotomy is not new. In the 1990s, the economy was booming John Engler was the Republican governor of Michigan, Bill Clinton, the Democratic president. When it came to that success…

RP: Credit for a good economy wasn’t a problem for Governor Jennifer Granholm. With George W.Bush in the White House, the economy was bad and it was a battle of blame. And it became mutually assured political destruction - we saw that by the time the time both of them office - Bush in 2009, Granholm on January first of 2011 - they were both pretty unpopular.  

ZC: That speaks to a few things, but one of them is people seeking office will cast a lot of blame for the bad, lay claim to the good, but there are really a lot of things outside their control that will decide the state of the economy and the state of their popularity.

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News Roundup
8:23 am
Fri May 11, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, May 11th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Senate Passes Industrial Tax Phase Out

The state Senate voted yesterday to phase out a tax on most industrial and business property in Michigan. "The tax is a big revenue generator for school districts and local governments. Senate Republicans amended their original plan so it now provides some assurances it won’t force big cuts to education and other services. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the tax on industrial equipment, in particular, is so unique it drives investment elsewhere. Democrats say the rollback is part of a pattern in Lansing of shifting the tax burden from businesses to individuals," Rick Pluta reports.

Bing Appoints a Detroit CFO

Jack Martin has been appointed chief financial officer in Detroit. Sarah Hulett reports:

The CFO is one of two key positions in the effort to turnaround the city's troubled finances. Martin served as CFO of the U.S. Department of Education several years ago, and in January he was picked to be the state-appointed emergency manager of Highland Park schools. The Detroit native says he also helped turn around Washington D.C.'s municipal finances. Martin will work alongside a still-unnamed program management director, and a financial advisory board. He starts the job on Monday with a yearly salary of $220,000.

Snyder Talks Bridge in Canada

Governor Snyder visited Windsor, Ontario yesterday to discuss plans with Canadian officials for another bridge across the Detroit River. Ken Silfven, a spokesman for the Governor says the administration, “remains committed to a Canadian-U.S. collaboration to build a span to supplement the privately owned Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The Windsor Star reports that U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson also attended the meeting. Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been fiercely battling the proposal with ads and lobbying. He seeks to add a span to his own bridge instead,” the Associated Press reports.

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