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If you need a vital record in Michigan, you'll likely pay more.

MLive's Jonathan Oosting reports a bill recently passed by the state Senate now heads to Gov. Snyder's desk:

Under House Bill 4786, the basic fee for a vital record search will rise from $26 to $34, while an authenticated copy of a birth, death, marriage or divorce record will rise from $29 to $42. Creation of new birth or death certificate will rise from $40 to $50.

Recent budgets for the Department of Community Health have assumed $5.5 million a year in vital records collections, but according to the Senate Fiscal Agency, revenues have come up short in recent years, leaving a $1.5 million structural deficit that the increased fees are designed to remedy.

Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy / UM's Ford School of Public Policy

Michigan's cities, towns, and villages are seeing an overall improvement in their ability to meet their financial needs, but hundreds continue to struggle. That's according to an annual report by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy.

The report finds that smaller municipalities are having a tougher time than those with populations of more than 30,000. And municipalities in central Michigan and the southern lower Peninsula have been particularly hard hit.

Roads
Wikimedia Commons

Each week we take a look at Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com.

Governor Snyder has been calling for increased funding for Michigan roads to the tune of $1.2 billion a year. This is one of the items he has not gotten a lot of traction on so far from lawmakers on either side of the political aisle.

According to Sikkema, the last time Michigan increased fees and a tax for transportation funding was back in 1997.

"The reason we keep going back to this sales tax issue is because Michigan is relatively unique. It has a sales tax on top of its state and federal gas tax and that sales tax doesn't go to roads it goes to schools and revenue sharing. There are only about three or four states in the country where all the taxes at the pump don't go to roads. Michigan is one of them," he said.

Are better roads, better for business?

Yesterday I talked about Washington’s offer to expand Medicaid to many Michiganders who currently have no health insurance. The government has offered to make the program available to many poor, but not officially poverty-stricken, Americans.

States who participate will pay only a fraction of the cost. This would immediately provide health care to hundreds of thousands who don’t now have it, and be extremely beneficial to virtually everyone, including employers, who would have a healthier work force.

Though some states sensibly ratified this almost immediately, Michigan has dragged its feet, largely because of bitter ideological opposition to anything that seems to be “government” health care. I said yesterday that this was irrational and was harming our state.

But while I heard from many people who agreed, not everybody did. One woman said I just didn’t understand that this would be terrible because it would be an expansion of government. In fact, the Tea Party has denounced more Medicaid as tyranny.

Well, I think that’s nonsense; I don’t think extending an already existing benefit to more people is expanding government.

Wikipedia

There’s legislation pending in Lansing that would allow voters to amend local charters to cap public employee compensation and benefits.

Courts have held that local initiatives don’t trump collective bargaining rights.

Former state Representative Leon Drolet heads the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. He says the legislation is an effort to get around that, to let voters run ballot drives and amend city charters.

“There would still be a collective bargaining process,” Drolet explained. “They would still set benefit levels, but there would be a cap on what the city could agree to, and what could be part of that negotiating process. Right now, there’s no cap.”

Michigan is a net giver when it comes to dollars leaving the state in federal taxes. According to the Economist, from 1990 to 2009, $1.23 trillion went out of the state in federal taxes, while $1.03 trillion in federal spending came into the state during that time frame.

user: Boss Tweed / Flickr

Michigan could get a boost in new tax revenues if the federal government approves proposed changes to immigration laws.

That’s according to a new report.  

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy predicts Michigan could gain $35 million dollars a year in new sales, property and income tax revenues, under the immigration changes.

psmag.com

Michigan lawmakers are looking at how to get online retailers to collect state sales taxes.

Currently, shoppers are supposed to report any sales taxes they owe on online purchases, and pay them with their income tax.

But most people don’t.

State Representative Eileen Kowall’s bill would put the responsibility on the online retailer.   She’s quick to say this is not a tax increase, just making sure that the taxes that are owed are being paid.

Kowall says the current system puts Michigan’s ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers at an unfair disadvantage.

Democrats call for repealing some state taxes

Apr 15, 2013
Official portrait

State House Democrats spent “tax day” pushing a plan to repeal several state tax policies.
 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan says the new corporate income tax returns it's processing are much shorter in length than other business tax returns.

The state Department of Treasury says the returns submitted to date average 17 pages. That's 41 fewer pages than the average Michigan Business Tax return.

The Corporate Income Tax approved in 2011 took effect for the 2012 tax year. Some businesses still file an MBT return because they qualify for certain tax credits.

The state says some MBT returns are longer than 1,000 pages.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan could loose $140 million if federal budget cuts happen Friday

"The White House says Michigan faces about $140 million in losses if an automatic federal budget cut takes effect Friday, and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin says he's hopeful the deadline pressure will prompt Congress to raise money by closing some tax loopholes. The cuts include $67.7 million in gross pay to 10,000 civilian Defense Department employees in Michigan and $42.2 million to K-12 and disability education programs in the state," the Associated Press reports.

Bankruptcy planning for Detroit

"It appears that officials are laying the groundwork for a so-called 'managed bankruptcy' in Detroit—though they hope that won’t actually happen. A process for going through chapter nine municipal bankruptcy is laid out in the state’s new emergency manager law that kicks in next month. Governor Snyder acknowledges that bankruptcy might be the only way to reduce Detroit’s long-term debt—estimated at more than $14 billion," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Taxes impact low and moderate earners this year

"Changes to Michigan's tax structure are hitting low and moderate earners hard this year. Lawmakers approved changes in 20-11 that cut 1-point-6 billion dollars in business taxes, but raised taxes on individuals. Low-income families could be the hardest hit, with the elimination of the child tax deduction, and a reduction in the Earned Income Tax Credit," Vincent Duffy reports.

Where do Michigan's tax dollars go?

Feb 18, 2013
John-Morgan / creative commons

Ever wonder where your Michigan tax dollars go?

MLive’s Jonathan Oosting has an article today that breaks it all out.

He notes that:

Michigan is one of eight states that levies a sales tax on fuel purchases, but it does not devote any of that revenue to road maintenance or repairs.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - In the height of tax season, many Michigan residents owe more money to Lansing.

Some major income tax changes approved 21 months ago by Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers are just now starting to hit taxpayers filing their state returns.

Homeowners and renters used to qualify for a credit if their household income was no more than around $83,000 a year. Now they don't get it unless their total household resources are $50,000 or less.

A state tax deduction for children is gone. So is a special exemption for seniors.

Gov. Snyder / Twitter

Governor Snyder says despite mounting political tension, his second year in office brought about many major accomplishments.

During a year-end roundtable with the press today, the governor touted a number of policies he says will move the state forward.

They include an agreement to build a new international crossing in Detroit, a phase-out of the state’s tax on industrial equipment, and a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan.

Snyder had to be asked before he made any mention of some of 2012’s controversies, including the new “right-to-work” law, and emergency managers.

He says lawmakers in 2013 should not let those issues get in the way of bipartisanship.

"That’s the start of the process to bring people back together, to say ‘we’re looking beyond just people saying they’re fighting, but we should be looking to service our citizens,’" said Snyder. "Because what really matters is customer service to our citizens, not hard feelings over some other particular issue."

The governor also said the “right-to-work” law is already attracting attention from businesses looking to move to Michigan.

Rio Tinto Eagle Mine

Governor Rick Snyder has approved an overhaul of how mining is taxed in Michigan.

Right now, mines pay a mix of property taxes, income taxes and sales taxes.

Soon, mines will instead be taxed on the amount of nickel, copper, and other ores are pulled from the ground.        

Snyder said he expects the simpler tax structure will lure more mining operations to northern Michigan.

Colin Chauret grew up in Bay City during World War II, fascinated by the Battle of Britain and dreaming of becoming a Spitfire pilot. When he graduated, he joined the service.

They taught him to fly, but instead of sending him to battle, they used him to train other pilots. The war ended before he could see combat. But Chauret stayed in, and eventually flew a hundred combat missions in Korea. He later was a staff officer in Vietnam.

He spent more than 30 years in what became the U.S. Air Force, rising to full colonel before he retired. He turns 90 in January, and is still military to the core. Two of his sons and one grandson are Air Force lieutenant colonels. He’s deeply religious, and credits God for saving him from one crash that killed a close friend.

Most afternoons, he walks for exercise in a shopping mall near where they now live in San Antonio, and shakes the hands of every wounded veteran he sees. These days, however, he is more interested in government.

He is worried about the fiscal cliff, the health of his native Michigan and the national debt most of all. But his views are not what you might think. “I am a liberal and damn proud of it,“ he told me, adding, that “after all, Jesus was the greatest liberal of all time.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley want the Legislature to enact a major tax overhaul before its current session ends in two or three weeks.

It would phase out Michigan’s tax on business and industrial equipment.   

It is widely agreed the tax discourages investment and is a particularly large burden on manufacturers.

The phase-out would take 10 years, with smaller businesses benefiting first.

Lieutenant Governor Calley said Michigan’s economy is still rooted in manufacturing.

“Eliminating this disincentive to invest will help improve our climate for job growth. Our whole state will benefit,” said Calley.

The holdup has come from local governments and school districts, which rely on that revenue.

David Lossing is the mayor of the city of Linden, near Flint, and president of the Michigan Municipal League. Lossing said there are still too many questions about this plan, and it could force many communities to cut services.

“We want to make 21st Century communities. We want to make these places where people want to live, want to shop, want to open a business, and so forth. If you throw us over the cliff, we’re not going to attract the businesses that we think we need to have to make us prosperous," said Lossing.

The plan would guarantee money for police, fire and other emergency services, but only if voters approve the plan in a statewide election. Other services could face cuts.

The state House Tax Policy Committee will hold a hearing on the proposal Wenesday.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

Some Michigan legislators are working to give pregnant women a tax break for their fetuses.

The plan is to allow a woman to claim a 12-week-old fetus as a dependent on their state income tax return.

From House Bills 5684 & 5685:

It’s obvious why the Ambassador Bridge-owning Moroun family is backing Proposal 6. That’s the ballot measure that would require of vote of the people to build international crossings. It would be another step toward blocking a competing bridge Canada has offered to fund.

States with supermajority requirements for tax increases. Mich. has a supermajority requirement for raising property taxes. If Proposal 5 passes, Mich. would join the states in gray with the most restrictive taxing policies.
Citizens Research Council of Michigan

State legislators play the game. Michigan voters will set the rules.

The playing field for Michigan lawmakers could change significantly after Nov. 6, if voters approve any one of five constitutional amendments on the ballot.

The "bed sheet ballot" is something California voters are used to, but Michigan voters haven't seen this many proposed constitutional amendments since 1978, when voters faced 9 proposed amendments.

We're posting on all the proposals seeking to amend the Constitution.

Congressman Fred Upton
Republican Conference / Creative Commons

Congressman Fred Upton says he’s in favor of getting rid of federal subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

He made the comments during a debate last Monday night in Kalamazoo. The debate was hosted by The Kalamazoo Gazette/Mlive.com and public radio station WMUK. You can hear the entire debate on their website.

During a discussion about renewable energy, Upton said the country “doesn’t need tax subsidies” for any energy companies.

Upton railed against President Obama’s investment in failed solar panel company Solyndra.

“We don’t need subsidies like this, particularly when the taxpayer losses every dime in their pocket. So I’m for putting all of these on an even footing. Let’s look at the oil and gas subsidies. Let’s taken them away. Let’s let them compete just like everyone else at the same level. We can do that with the tax code to take those special provisions away,” Upton said.

Nobody likes taxes, and for the last 30 years, we’ve been happily brainwashed into thinking that our taxes are too high.

And, as a result, a leading economist told me the other day, “We have some of the worst roads in the country.” But hold on. If a lot of people are fooled into voting yes on Proposal Five, our roads and everything else are certain to get worse. In fact, much worse.

That’s the conclusion of Michigan State University Economics Professor Charles Ballard, perhaps the top expert on our state’s economy. His short, excellent book Michigan’s Economic Future ought to be required reading for anybody who wants to understand how things work.  Believe it or not, there are a few hard facts you need to know about taxes. First of all, we are already paying far less than we once were. Ballard told me, “State and local tax revenues in Michigan are already a much smaller fraction of our economy than they were a few decades ago.”

How much money is that?

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Snyder likely to veto handgun bill

"Governor Snyder has indicated he will likely veto a bill that would change the state's gun sales law. The bill would eliminate a state background check requirement for sales made over the Internet or at gun shows. Those account for close to half of all gun sales," Sarah Hulett reports.

House speaker Bolger criticized for his company's tax history

"State House Speaker Jase Bolger is facing harsh criticism about his business record from a liberal advocacy group. Progress Michigan released documents alleging Bolger’s company, Summit Credit Service, failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes and fees between 1997 and 2000. The papers include liens from the Michigan Treasury Department, the state Unemployment Agency, and the IRS," Jake Neher reports.

Striking Detroit workers suspended and face firing

Thirty-four striking Detroit employees of the water and sewage department who went on strike this week have been suspended and face firing. It's illegal in Michigan for municipal workers to strike. Sarah Cwiek reports that, "City officials plan to largely privatize the water department over five years, and cut up to 80-percent of its staff."

House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Jase Bolger / Facebook.com

State House Speaker Jase Bolger is facing harsh criticism about his business record from a liberal advocacy group.

Progress Michigan released documents alleging Bolger’s company, Summit Credit Service, failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes and fees between 1997 and 2000.

The papers include liens from the Michigan Treasury Department, the state Unemployment Agency, and the IRS.

Bolger’s spokesperson, Ari Adler, said all taxes and fees have been paid in full.

“All of these issues were addressed more than 10 years ago. And now Speaker Bolger and his partners have a successful small business that is employing people in Michigan,” Adler said.

The Speaker is currently under investigation by a grand jury for allegations of election fraud in a separate matter.

I’m not running for anything, now, or presumably ever. But I have a confession to make. I am not rich, but my household income is more than a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Nevertheless, I get a form of welfare from the government. And my guess is that you do too. If not, other members of your family do. My welfare is called the home mortgage tax deduction.

The government exempts me from paying thousands of dollars in taxes that I would have to pay if I lived in a rented apartment.

A new state tax to help pay for Medicaid is coming up $130 million short of projections.

The one-percent tax on health insurance claims was supposed to bring in $300 million this fiscal year. Now, budget officials say it’ll only generate about half that. Budget department spokesman Kurt Weiss said the state should be able to scrape together enough money to make up for the missing tax revenue. It is federal matching funds he is worried about.

“If you look at the way the match works, there’s the potential of losing up to $260 million in matching federal funds with this if we’re $130 million short. So, certainly that is part of the concern,” Weiss said.

Weiss said bad projections could be to blame for the gap, or health care providers simply might not be paying their share. He said his department is working with other state agencies to pin down the problem.

“It is a new tax, and it is something new to those that are paying it. So we’re really trying to reach out, do that education, and trying to make sure we’re getting the money from everybody we should be getting the money from,” he said.

Weiss said officials are looking for ways to try and make up the state’s shortfall. If shortfalls continue, he says lawmakers may have to make changes to the tax.

Five million Michigan voters will go to the polls two months from today. When they are handed their ballots and walk into the voting booth, they will face six ticking time bombs.

I’m talking about the ballot proposals. Yesterday, the State Supreme Court ended a legal battle by ordering three more proposed constitutional amendments on to the ballot. They’ve already put two others there, plus a referendum on the emergency manager law.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney is refocusing his tax plan to strengthen the middle class. Romney was in Colorado Thursday to outline his plan, which included points that have been previously released.

In Michigan and other states the campaign lined up several small business owners to share their support for Romney.

Tyce Holst owns Taylor Rental and Party Plus, a rental store in Holland that employs 10 full time workers. Holst says the recession forced him to lay off two employees.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There may be some good economic news in a place that's usually just about bad news: county tax foreclosure auctions.

Flickr/Sarah Sosiak

Michigan's Treasury Department says the state will lose about $242 million in tax revenue from Amazon and other online retailers.

States have trouble collecting sales taxes from sellers that don't have a physical presence within their borders. Amazon owns Grand-Haven-based audio book publisher Brilliance Audio, but Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says Michigan considers it a separate entity.

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