Politics & Government

News Roundup
8:45 am
Thu May 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

Romney in Michigan

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will deliver a speech about healthcare today at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. Steve Carmody reports:

The Republican presidential contender is expected to outline a path away from the nation’s recently enacted health care reform law… Romney has been extremely critical of the health care law enacted last year, even though it’s very similar to the law he enacted as governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s speech will address his proposal to replace the law.

Declining Profits at Toyota

Toyota announced yesterday that its fourth-quarter profit fell by 77%. Reasons for the decline include the strong yen versus the dollar that eroded Toyota’s profits overseas and the fact that the automaker’s global production plummeted after March’s earthquake and tsunami. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Toyota says, “its North American production will rise to 70 percent of normal in June as the company begins to recover from parts shortages caused by the earthquake in Japan"

Lawmakers Continue Debate on Tax Reform

It appears Republican leaders in the state Senate are facing a difficult challenge in trying to win approval for Governor Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul. Laura Weber reports:

The tax reform plan has been before a Senate committee this week, but there have been no votes on the measure. Republican Senators on the panel walked in and out of hearings, which may signal they weren’t ready for a vote.  The tax plan is controversial. It would eliminate the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a profits-tax on some corporations, reduce the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and tax some future pensioners. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he still hopes the Senate will vote on the package this week.

Politics
1:01 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Mitt Romney will call for repeal of "Obamacare" at U of M

Mitt Romney celebrating his victory in Michigan's Republican presidential primary in 2008.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be in Ann Arbor later today to talk about the nation’s health care system.  The Republican presidential contender is expected to outline a path away from the nation’s recently enacted health care reform law.  

Mitt Romney will outline his plan to change the nation’s health care system to an invitation only audience at the University of Michigan's Cardiovascular Center. 

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Politics
6:17 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

A conversation with Benton Harbor's Emergency Manager - Joe Harris

Benton Harbor continues to make headlines in national news as the city works to stabilize its finances.

Joe Harris was appointed as Emergency Manager last April by former Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Since then, Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law the expansion of an Emergency Mangers' power. Under the law, emergency managers can strip power from locally elected officials and dissolve union contracts.

Joe Harris is the first emergency manager to take advantage of the new law.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Harris. Here's the interview.

During the interview, Harris said he wanted to correct the record - that he didn't strip the elected officials in Benton Harbor of their power. Harris says their power was effectively stripped when the new Emergency Manager bill was signed into law by Governor Snyder:

"In that act... mayors, commissioners, and chief administrative officers of any city that was under the control of an emergency manager lost their authority.

I never stripped them. And so the news report that's all over the country that I stripped them of their authority is incorrect. They had no authority.

The only authority that they can have is the authority that's provided to them, or is given to them by the Emergency Manager."

On April 14th, Harris issued this order.

Politics
3:03 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

State Senate debate continuing on Michigan tax proposal

A Michigan Senate committee isn't yet ready to make a decision on a broad plan that would significantly change business and income tax structures in the state.

The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee adjourned Wednesday without a vote on the legislation.

It's still possible the proposal will be voted on in the Republican-led Senate as early as Thursday.

The plan backed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder would cut overall business taxes about $1 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and $1.7 billion the following year. The key would be replacing the
Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate income tax while eliminating many types of tax credits and exemptions.

Some exemptions on retiree income would end, which has drawn opposition from some Republican lawmakers.

Changing Gears
12:52 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Across the region, shutting the local library

Zachariah, left, and Craig Boyd, Saturday morning regulars at Gary Public Libary's main branch.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

What happens when your local library shuts its doors? That’s a question Midwestern towns from Evanston, Ill., to Troy, Mich., are asking as local libraries are targeted in budget cuts.

I went to Northwest Indiana, where the Gary Library Board has just decided to close its main branch, to find out the impact on a local community.

Gary has five library branches. The other four have names, like Kennedy, or Du Bois. This one is simply called the "main library."

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News Roundup
8:45 am
Wed May 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Thursday, May 11th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

GM Announces New Investments

General Motors announced yesterday it will invest a total of $2 billion in 17 of its U.S. plants. The investment means the automaker will re-hire its 1,357 laid-off workers, and possibly hire hundreds of new workers, especially if demand for GM cars continues to improve. The announcement was made at GM’s Toledo Transmission plant.

Unhappy With Snyder

A new EPIC/MRA poll is out and it shows Michigan voters are unhappy with Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder’s disapproval rating is at 60%, that’s compared with a disapproval rate of 36% percent just two months ago. And, disapproval of his job performance seems to have influenced how votes view Snyder personally. "More voters have an ‘unfavorable’ opinion of Governor Snyder today than they did back in February. In February, the poll showed 44% ‘favorable’ and 27% ‘unfavorable.’ Today, the poll shows 41% ‘favorable’ and 43% ‘unfavorable,'" Mark Brush reports.

EITC (Partially) Restored

Governor Snyder's administration has agreed to restore a reduced version of the state income tax credit for working poor families, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The reduced tax break will allow families that qualify to claim 6% of the federal earned income credit on their state taxes. In the past families could claim 20%. Snyder's original proposal called for elimination of the credit... Families eligible for the state credit in 2009 claimed an average of $432 per household. The Michigan League for Human Services says the reduced credit will still allow eligible families to take $140 off their 2011 tax bill, or add part of it to their return.

Politics
6:49 am
Wed May 11, 2011

Group begins effort to recall state Speaker of the House

Republican Jase Bolger, State Speaker of the House
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

A group trying to recall Governor Rick Snyder is now trying to remove Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger. The Associated Press reports:

The group cites Bolger's support for cutting school aid and for legislation making it easier to void public employee contracts during financial emergencies.

The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder says it hopes to collect 8,500 signatures to put Bolger's recall on the November ballot.

Language on a petition to recall the Marshall lawmaker was submitted Tuesday to the Calhoun County clerk.

Bolger says he'll keep focusing on job creation and sound fiscal management and says he's in touch with voters.

Chief Deputy Clerk Teri Loew tells the Battle Creek Enquirer there'll be a hearing this month.

If the language passes muster, backers will have 180 days to collect signatures.

Politics
4:47 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Calley: A new bridge will create competition with Ambassador Bridge

Governor Rick Snyder stressed his desire to create a second U.S./Canada bridge crossing the Detroit River.
Patricia Drury Flickr

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says the governor’s office will push the Legislature to approve a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada as soon as next month.

Calley says they plan to introduce a bill after budget and tax deals have been ironed out. He says the state needs to create competition with the Ambassador Bridge Company and its monopoly at the crossing.

"The governor started out, right out of the blocks, advocating for a fix to that problem. A fix that doesn't really hold or contain any risk at all for the people of the state of Michigan, but instead put the power of the private sector behind a new project and says that 'we're not for monopolies anymore, we’re for competition.'"

Calley appeared at a speaking engagement with Roy Norton, the Canadian consul general to Detroit. Norton says the Ambassador Bridge is more than 80 years old and carries more than 10,000 trucks a day.

"One, very old bridge, by itself, carries almost 30% of the world’s largest two-way trade relationship, with literally millions of jobs in Canada and the United States depending on everything working right every day."

Norton and Calley reassured Lansing’s business community that the cost of a second, publically owned bridge would fall on the Canadian government, and not Michigan taxpayers.

They say the project would be paid for over time by tolls. And they say tolls for the new bridge would be cheaper than they are now at the Ambassador Bridge.

Meanwhile, the Ambassador Bridge Company appears to be ramping up its campaign against the proposed bridge project. The bridge company wants to build its own second bridge instead.

Politics
4:17 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Governor Snyder making changes to get budget proposal through Senate

Governor Rick Snyder is working to get his budget through the State Senate. He hopes to have an agreement on the next fiscal year's budget by May 31st.
user aunt owwee Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder continues to negotiate with lawmakers to try to get his budget proposal through the Senate.

Parts of his proposal are facing a tough sell, even among his fellow Republicans.

The Snyder administration changed its position on eliminating the earned income credit, and now says families should still be able to claim it, but at a reduced rate.

Families eligible for the state credit in 2009 claimed an average of $432 per household. The Michigan League for Human Services says the reduced credit will still allow eligible families to take $140 off their 2011 tax bill, or add part of it to their return.

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Politics
3:41 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Unfunded state mandates, local governments & the Headlee Amendment

Michigan Hall of Justice, Lansing, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tomorrow, the Michigan Supreme Court will consider a rule change that could put local governments in a stronger position to challenge unfunded state mandates.  

The Headlee Amendment is a state constitutional amendment meant to reduce unfunded state mandates on local governments, like requiring but not necessarily providing extra money for special education programs. 

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Politics
3:41 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Snyder's "disapproval" rating goes up

Governor Rick Snyder's poll numbers are in.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

Michigan voters are not happy with Governor Rick Snyder according to a new EPIC/MRA poll.

Two months ago, Snyder's disapproval rating was at 36%.

Today his disapproval rating sits at 60%.

The disapproval of his performance seems to have influenced how voters view Snyder personally as well.

More voters have an "unfavorable" opinion of Governor Snyder today than they did back in February:

  • In February, the poll showed 44% "favorable" and 27% "unfavorable"
  • Today, the poll shows 41% "favorable" and 43% "unfavorable"

What "high-value target" does Snyder need to find to turn these poll numbers around?

Politics
3:38 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Detroit officials eye immediate, long-term money problems

Charles Pugh
Charles Pugh

The city of Detroit is ramping up efforts to cobble together a budget and a five-year deficit elimination plan.

Detroit City Council members got a copy of Mayor Dave Bing’s deficit elimination plan Tuesday.

The Council wants more cuts than Bing proposed. They say that’s necessary to avoid a possible state takeover of the city’s finances.

Council President Charles Pugh says a Council work group believes the city should cut at least $120 million from the upcoming budget.

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Commentary
2:01 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Life after GM

The top brass of General Motors were happily bound for Ohio today, to the newly revived automaker’s transmission plant in Toledo.

They are announcing the creation of four thousand new jobs, there and elsewhere.  What was once the world’s biggest corporation is once again hugely profitable -- less than two years after bankruptcy and near-corporate death.

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Developing
11:12 am
Tue May 10, 2011

Instead of axing it, plan calls for reducing the tax credit for the working poor

Governor Rick Snyder's administration has agreed to restore a reduced version of the state income tax credit for working poor families.

The reduced tax break will allow families that qualify to claim 6% of the federal earned income credit on their state taxes.

In the past families could claim 20%.

Snyder's original proposal called for elimination of the credit.

News Roundup
8:53 am
Tue May 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

Funds for High Speed Rail

Michigan has been awarded almost $200 million for high speed rail projects. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit yesterday to make the announcement. Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other Michigan lawmakers were on hand. The money will help pay for upgrades to a stretch of track between Detroit and Kalamazoo. The improvements will also help speed-up trains to 110 miles-per-hour. Michigan received the funds after Florida’s governor turned the money down.

State Senate to Take-Up Snyder Tax Measure

A Michigan Senate panel is set to hold a hearing on a broad tax proposal that's a key part of Governor Snyder’s strategy for the state, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee is scheduled to take testimony Tuesday on legislation that would cut overall business taxes and lead to taxes on certain types of retirement income.

The Republican-led House passed the main bill in the package by a 56-53 vote last month. The legislation will face a tough challenge in the GOP-led Senate because some Republicans already have come out against it…

Democrats generally oppose the plan.

Another Round of Federal Funds for Education

Michigan and other states may soon compete against one another to try to win a new round of grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Jennifer Guerra reports. From Guerra:

Congress allotted another $700 million to Race to the Top, the education reform program where states compete for federal grants. It’s not clear just yet how the money will be used, but some analysts say it’s likely the money will go toward improving early education.

John Austin is president of the Michigan Board of Education. He says "early childhood education expansion of pre-K to all interested is a fantastic investment." It would cost about $300 million to expand pre-K and kindergarten access to all children in Michigan, says Austin.

So far, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded 13 states and the District of Columbia Race to the Top funds. Michigan has yet to win any Race to the Top money.

Politics
8:41 am
Tue May 10, 2011

Immigration Agents Accused Of Crossing A Line

Jose Luis (left) says he sought refuge inside Hope of Detroit Academy after he dropped his kids off because immigration agents were waiting outside the school.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is under fire for what critics are calling aggressive and overzealous tactics.

ICE officials say they are concerned enough that they're reviewing a recent incident involving immigration agents.

But the union that represents agents is complaining that ICE isn't standing behind its officers.

A Ghost Town

The principal of Hope of Detroit Academy, Ali Abdel, says he was helping out with morning safety patrol on March 31, just like he does most mornings.

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State Legislature
6:40 am
Tue May 10, 2011

State Senators to take up tax reform bill

Inside the Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

A state Senate panel is scheduled to hold a hearing later today on Governor Rick Snyder’s tax reform proposal. The Associated press reports:

The Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee is scheduled to take testimony Tuesday on legislation that would cut overall business taxes and lead to taxes on certain types of retirement income.

The Republican-led House passed the main bill in the package by a 56-53 vote last month. The legislation will face a tough challenge in the GOP-led Senate because some Republicans already have come out against it.

Some Republicans are opposed to taxing retiree income and to measures that would delay lowering the state's personal income tax rate.

Democrats generally oppose the plan.

Politics
5:53 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Snyder wants to scrap tax breaks for cleaning up old industrial sites

Motor City Industrial Park. Governor Rick Snyder wants to get rid of a tax credit that helps defray the costs of cleaning up old industrial sites. He wants to replace the credit with up-front grants.
Alaina Buzas Flickr

A state Senate committee opens hearings tomorrow on Governor Rick Snyder’s tax reform proposals.

Altogether, two dozen tax breaks could disappear if the governor’s plan is adopted.

Ending the tax exemption for pensions has gotten a lot of attention, but the plan would also largely eliminate the use of tax breaks that encourage the re-use of old factories and historic buildings.

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Politics
5:50 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Michigan gets almost $200 million for Detroit-Chicago Amtrak line

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood presented a novelty check at Detroit's Amtrak station.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Michigan will get just under $200 million to boost rail service between Detroit and Chicago.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the official announcement alongside state and local officials in Detroit Monday.

The federal money comes with no strings attached. Officials say it will let them upgrade a stretch of track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

The fiery debate over roll-your-own cigarette machines

User inc_hip Flickr

Smoke shop owners are feeling the heat in Michigan as 300 shops received warnings in March from the Michigan Department of the Treasury, according to the Detroit News.

The offense?

Using an "automated roll-your-own machine," which the Department of the Treasury claims amounts to the illegal manufacture of cigarettes.

The smokes from the machine can be up to 50% cheaper than buying brand name cigarettes.

From the Detroit News:

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