Politics & Government

Politics
11:09 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Lansing city council leaders to discuss budget

The city of Lansing is facing a projected $20 million dollar budget deficit. 

On Monday, the city council is scheduled to vote on a budget intended to close that gap.   As it stands now, the city may have to lay off dozens of police officers and firefighters, as well as making other painful spending cuts to balance the budget.  

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Commentary
11:01 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Now for the Hard Part

Well, Governor Rick Snyder pulled it off. Yesterday, the legislature passed his radical restructuring of the state tax system, agreeing to slash business taxes, eliminate tax credits and for the first time ever, to tax pensions.

The man who was supposed to be a political babe in the woods skillfully guided his agenda home. They will tell you he almost didn’t pull it off. Indeed, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley had to break a tie vote in the senate to get the bill passed.

But to some extent, this was theater. While some Republicans were genuinely opposed, others were really opposed to being defeated when they run for re-election.

So the outcome was skillfully managed to allow some Senate  Republicans in swing districts to tell their constituents that they voted against Snyder’s plan. But were they really against it? Here’s a clue. When they took a second vote on whether to bypass the waiting period and have the bill take effect immediately, the Republicans unanimously voted to support the governor.

And now for the real test: Will it work? After the vote, the governor praised the legislature for, as he put it, “taking the bold actions necessary to put our state on the path to prosperity, and “paving the way for economic expansion.”

The contrast between Democrats and Republicans on this couldn’t be more stark.

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Politics
10:49 am
Fri May 13, 2011

A conversation with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (audio)

Governor Rick Snyder said the passage of his tax overhaul package will create a better climate for businesses in Michigan.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

Governor Rick Snyder took questions from listeners this morning on a public radio call-in show hosted by the Michigan Public Radio Network's Capitol Bureau Chief Rick Pluta .

For those of you who missed it, here's the audio:

The show was produced by the Michigan Public Radio Network in cooperation with WKAR, Michigan Radio, and Michigan Government Television.

Politics
10:09 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Is it time to get rid of Fannie Mae? Congressman Gary Peters thinks so.

Rep. Gary Peters, (D) Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Gary Peters is proposing doing away with the federal home mortgage financing system.   Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became the backbone of the nation’s mortgage system in the past decade.  Fannie and Freddie played a critical role in the housing market collapse.  

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Politics
8:45 am
Fri May 13, 2011

LIVE WEBCAST: A conversation with Governor Rick Snyder

Update 10:50 a.m.

The Webcast is over. Here's the recorded program:

8:45 a.m.

LIVE WEBCAST: A Conversation with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

9:00 a.m. Friday, May 13, 2011

Public radio call-in show hosted by MPRN's Capitol Bureau Chief Rick Pluta

e-mail your quesitons to: askthegov@mprn.org

video served by
WKAR Public Media at Michigan State University

 

Share your comments below!

State Legislature
7:16 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Education funding deal tied to Senate vote?

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flicker

It appears a deal was struck between Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate in order for Governor Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul to be voted on yesterday by Democratic state Senators. Chris Christoff, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Detroit Free Press, reports:

A quiet deal from Senate Republicans to give public schools an extra $150 million next year helped smooth the way Thursday for the 20-19 Senate vote to cut business taxes by $1.7 billion, tax pensions and do away with many tax exemptions.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, confirmed the GOP's offer. It came in exchange for all Democrats going on the record with their votes. If any had not voted, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley couldn't have voted to break a 19-19 tie. A 19-19 tie (the Senate has 38 members) is the only circumstance under which a lieutenant governor can vote…

The deal would lessen a Senate-approved cut to K-12 schools from $225 per pupil less than this year, to $75 per pupil less than this year.

In a piece yesterday on Mlive.com, Peter Luke also mentions a deal:

Preserving the 19-19 vote that allowed Calley to break the tie required all 12 Democrats to vote "no." If one had declined to vote, there's no tie and the measure would have failed.

Democrats agreed to all vote in exchange for a promise that a good chunk of the extra tax revenue anticipated for FY 2012 will mitigate cuts in K-12 education.

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Politics
6:48 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Snyder tax overhaul victory caps months of negotiations

Governor Rick Snyder (R)
Michigan Municipal League Flicrk

Governor Rick Snyder had to compromise along the way-- but approval of his tax reform package hands the governor a significant legislative victory. And, signing the bill will allow the governor to retire the signature issue of his election campaign.

Governor Snyder campaigned heavily on scrapping the complex and unpopular Michigan Business Tax and replacing it with a corporate profits tax. He took office saying fulfilling that promise would be part of an agenda of “relentless positive action.”

“So I believe we’re on a positive path to make that happen. It’s that old ‘relentless positive action.’ I think it’s a little bit contagious and I hope it is.”

His legislative win caps months of negotiations that often placed him at odds with Republicans who opposed extending the state income tax to pensions. He scaled back his original propose, and also relented on ending the earned income tax credit for working poor families. The governor says he’s still happy with the result and predicts it will help spur job creation.

But not enough to convince many Democrats, who intend to make this tax package an issue in legislative elections next year.

Politics
5:21 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Tax overhaul passes Michigan Senate

The Michigan Senate passed a tax overhaul plan today that rolls back taxes on Michigan businesses by about $2 billion. The Michigan House is expected to quickly concur with the Senate action and send the measure to Governor Snyder for his signature.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Update 5:21 p.m.

Republicans eked out a legislative victory today as Governor Rick Snyder's tax overhaul package cleared the state Senate.

It fell to Snyder’s lieutenant governor to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley delivered a short speech before he cast the vote to break the deadlock on the tax reform package he had a hand in designing.

Calley predicted some lawmakers will pay a price for supporting the administration's tax reforms.

"Because real change comes with real consequence," said Calley. "Real change will come with drama."

Seven Republicans joined Democrats to vote against the package, largely because the measure will end the tax exemption on pension income for anyone born after 1946.

Democrats say it will shift the burden of paying for government services to families and the elderly.

State Senator Steve Bieda was one of the Democrats who voted against the measure.

"It’s shifting the tax to those who are least able to pay in our society," said Bieda. "We are talking about the elderly, people who are living on pensions are going to see a huge increase. I think it’s unjust, unwise, and it’s certainly very unfair."

Bieda tried to delay the vote until next week when the state adopts new revenue numbers. It’s expected there will be a windfall of more revenue than was anticipated at the beginning of the year.

The package eliminates the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate profits tax.

It also eliminates a host of tax breaks, including the income tax exemption for people on pensions.

Overall, the package rolls back taxes on businesses by nearly $2 billion. Most of the businesses that would benefit are small and medium-sized corporations.

Republicans say the result will also be a tax code that is simpler and easier to follow.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says there are some hard choices in the package, but they combine to make Michigan more business-friendly.

"So we put the good, the bad, the ugly altogether in one package and said, we believe the greater good is worthy of some of the not-so-good or ugly, so to speak."

The Senate bill restores the earned income tax credit for working poor families, but at a reduced rate.

The House is expected to quickly concur with the Senate action and send the measure to Governor Snyder for his signature.

3:55 p.m.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has cast the tie-breaking vote to win Senate approval of Governor Rick Snyder's tax overhaul plan.

The package scraps the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate profits tax.

It will be a net tax cut on many small and mid-sized businesses.

It also eliminates a host of tax breaks, including the income tax exemption for pensions.

Republicans say the result will be a tax code that is simpler and easier to follow and more business-friendly.

Politics
4:53 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Warren mayor declines to reveal age

Was Warren Mayor Jim Fouts born in 1942 or 1944? There are discrepancies in public records, and Fouts won't say which one is correct.
City of Warren

The mayor of Michigan’s third-largest city is refusing to reveal his age, saying he fears ageism could play a role in his reelection bid. But that may not be the whole story. 

Jim Fouts served on the Warren City Council for 26 years and was elected mayor in 2007.

But his age is a bit of a mystery.

Michigan Department of Education records show Fouts was born in 1942. His driver's license shows 1944 -- and that's the date he entered on official documents when he ran for public office.

Attorney Arthur Garton says Fouts may have broken the law.

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Politics
4:30 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Mitt Romney calls for repeal of federal health care law

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaking at the University of Michigan.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

UPDATE 6:10pm  

The invitation-only crowd at Mitt Romney’s health care speech in Ann Arbor  Thursday generally liked what they heard.    The Republican presidential contender wants to repeal the federal health care law.  

 Romney painstakingly tried to draw a sharp contrast between the plan he put in place as governor of Massachusetts and the similar plan that President Obama helped create on the national level. 

Medical student Johannes Pulst-Korenberg thought Romney made some interesting points, but failed to make his case against the federal health care law. 

 “I wasn’t really convinced with how he characterized ‘Obama-care’ as a government takeover of Medicare….I don’t think it’s a government takeover of health care.”

But others in the audience liked what they heard.     Romney’s call for repealing the federal health care law replacing it with state-plans made sense to them.   Stan Watson is a member of the Washtenaw County Republican Party.  

 “I think it’s something that he had to stand up and address.  Because, as he said, it became a liability.  I think he’s bringing it back to an asset talking about health care.”  

Romney’s critics say he should apologize for creating a health care system in Massachusetts that became a template for the national health care law.

Romney told the audience in Ann Arbor on Thursday,  he will not apologize for a state system he says is working.  

 

ORIGINAL POST:   Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney says the Obama administration distrusts the free enterprise system, and the nation’s new health care law is an example of that distrust.

Romney spoke to an invitation-only audience at the University of Michigan this afternoon.

The former Massachusetts governor outlined his plan to repeal the health care law, and replace it with incentives for states to come up with their own solutions to the problem of people who are uninsured.

"Our plan was a state solution to a state problem," Romney said. "And his is a power grab by the federal government to put in place a 'one-size-fits-all' plan across the nation."

Romney said the Obama administration's health care plan is flawed.

"They fundamentally distrust free enterprise and distrust the idea that states are where the power of government resides," said Romney.

Romney said he will not apologize for the health care plan he put in place in Massachusetts, even though it might help him politically.

Romney’s biggest obstacle to winning the Republican presidential nomination is probably the health care issue.

He championed a health care plan in Massachusetts that served as a basis for the federal health care law.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized today that unless Romney can explain why his plans for health care reform are different from the president's, then he might make a better running mate for Obama in 2012 than the GOP presidential nominee.

Politics
4:20 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Detroit missing out on tens of millions in unpaid income taxes

About a third of the income taxes workers owe to Detroit are going unpaid, according to Mayor Dave Bing’s finance director.

Tom Lijana told the Detroit City Council today the city will take in about $226 million in income taxes this year. But he says another $110 million is going unpaid.

"That’s a critical hole in our tax system today," Lijana told council members.

He says the city will push for legislation to allow it to garnish tax returns for people who owe back income taxes:

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Politics
4:10 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Detroit mayor reject's Bloomberg's immigrant idea

From left: Macomb Co. Executive Mark Hackel, Wayne Co. Executive Bob Ficano, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and Oakland Co. Executive L. Brooks Patterson
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing today flatly rejected the idea put forward by New York’s mayor that immigrants could be the key to reversing Detroit’s population loss.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the suggestion during an appearance on “Meet the Press” earlier this month, saying the U.S. became a superpower because of its immigrant population. But Bing ridiculed the idea during an event with the “Big Four” metro Detroit political leaders.

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Politics
11:46 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Close vote expected on broad Michigan tax proposal

The Michigan Senate is voting on a bill that would overhaul Michigan's tax structure today.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

Michigan could see some sweeping changes to its tax structure after today's vote.

Michigan's former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop sent out this Tweet:

"Here we go ... Senate in caucus now, but will soon emerge to vote on Gov's tax proposal. If it passes, I expect it will be by a vote or 2."

From the Associated Press:

The Republican-led Michigan Senate is preparing for what likely will be a close vote on a proposal that would significantly shake up the state's tax structure.

The vote planned Thursday is on a proposal that would cut overall business taxes by 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. Some Republicans also will oppose the measure because it would delay scheduled rollbacks in Michigan's personal income tax rate, which is 4.35 percent.

A committee reported the bill to the Senate floor Thursday.

Commentary
10:29 am
Thu May 12, 2011

What Should Be Private?

Robert Bobb, the tough, controversial Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, made an astonishing admission yesterday. He has been fighting a deadly form of cancer.

Thirteen months ago, he learned he had Stage Four tongue cancer, which had spread to the lymph nodes in his neck.

His chances of surviving five years were put at less than fifty percent. Hearing such a diagnosis would be enough to emotionally destroy many people. Bobb toughed it out.

He clearly is an intensely private person. In fact, I had never  seen his age in print - he is sixty-six - or knew he was married until yesterday. People knew something was wrong with Bobb; he seemed to have lost weight, and at one point acknowledged he had been ill, but said he was feeling better. In fact, he was involved in an intensive course of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Bobb would show up at Henry Ford Hospital in the morning, checking in under a fake name, and get half an hour of intense treatment. Then he would go about the battles of the day, and sometimes endure abuse at school board meetings at night.

Remarkably, his secret held, until he decided to reveal it to the Detroit Free Press yesterday, adding, almost as an afterthought, “It was an hell of an ordeal, man.”

Why did he keep his condition from the public? His reasons make sense.

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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.

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