taxes

Business
2:38 pm
Sun July 15, 2012

Michigan losing $242M in untaxed online sales

New books
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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Commentary
10:50 am
Mon July 2, 2012

Commentary: Growing Inequality

Last week, I talked about the Michigan House of Representatives voting to slash the state income tax over the next six years. I thought this didn’t make a lot of sense, given that the state is having a hard time paying for essential programs now.

Later that day, I talked more about this with the man I think has the best overall knowledge of our state’s economy: Michigan State University professor Charles Ballard, author of the best little book there is on the subject: "Michigan’s Economic Future."

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Politics & Government
11:25 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Proposal to merge cities of Saugatuck and Douglas inching forward

People in the audience who are against the proposed merger raise their hands at the request of the State Boundary Commission chair.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people showed up for a public hearing in Saugatuck Wednesday night. Most spoke against the proposed plan to merge the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

Travis Randolph is with the group that’s behind the idea. He hopes a state commission will decide the proposal is reasonable enough to put before voters.

"The ultimate poll is an election and that’s all we’re trying to get to. So that everybody can have a say. And in the process of getting to the election, you have to go through dealing with those people who have emotional connection to the present, not to the future,” Randolph said.

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Politics
5:40 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Michigan legislature sends tax reductions to Gov. Snyder

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI.
Matthileo Flickr

The Legislature has sent election-year tax reductions to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval.

The measures would accelerate a reduction in the state income tax rate, and increase the personal exemption. That’s after a tax rate rollback was delayed last year.
    
The House also approved a measure to continue rolling back income tax rates through 2018.
    
Democratic state Representative Vicki Barnett was one of just a handful of “no”’ votes.

She says the six-year rollback is poorly planned, and could force more cuts down the road to schools and public safety.

“The numbers don’t work. I’m a financial planner in my private life. I’ve looked at the numbers. The numbers don’t work. I would love to be able to return excess money to the taxpayer, but after we fund critical services to the level they should be funded at," said Barnett.

The Legislature begins its summer break today. The state Senate could take up the six-year rollback later this year.

Politics
2:48 am
Wed June 13, 2012

Grand Rapids City not willing to narrow abortion coverage for city employees

People line up to speak at city commission's 'night out' at Rosewood Elementary School's gym. Grand Rapids resident Adrienne Urban (at the podium) spoke in favor of the proposal.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Despite some public pressure, Grand Rapids City Commissioners declined to support a proposal that would restrict abortion coverage for city workers. A group turned in more than a thousand signatures in favor of the proposal last month.

Health insurance for Grand Rapids city workers does not cover any elective surgeries. So abortions are only covered when deemed “medically necessary”. The proposal would’ve defined that to mean only in cases of rape, incest and to protect the health of the mother.

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Politics
10:20 am
Tue May 29, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today

The annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway today on Mackinac Island. The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has been taking place since 1981. It's a place where policy makers, politicians, and business and thought leaders get together to discuss ideas and policies that could shape Michigan's future.

Conference organizers hope to "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market" at this year's conference.

If you feel compelled to tweet about the event this week, the hashtag for the conference is #mpc12.

Michigan Governor Snyder will deliver welcoming comments today at 3:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta will bring us updates from the conference. You can also watch online coverage of the event sponsored by Detroit Public Television.

Update on wildfires in the Upper Peninsula

The AP reports that the 3,400-acre Pine Creek North wildfire in Schoolcraft County is mostly contained:

Officials say some crews are leaving the area as mop-up operations continue. Firefighters on Tuesday planned to patrol the perimeter of the fire looking for hot spots.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on May 21.

However, the Duck Lake Fire continues to burn. More from CNN wire services:

The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.The state agency estimated Monday the blaze is about 51% contained, thanks to progress made by firefighters in maintaining a firm perimeter.

Moving up income tax cut called a "gimmick"

The Michigan House of Representatives will begin taking up plans today to move a planned income tax cut up by a few months.

The tax rate will drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent next January. The Associated Press reports Michigan House Republicans want to start the tax cut in October 2012.

House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger wants to return $90 million from a budget surplus to taxpayers. The tax rate would drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent.

The Michigan League for Human Services says the move is an election-year gimmick. It says the money would be better spent offering preschool or dental care to low-income children.

Democrats say tax changes passed last year by GOP lawmakers will require that individuals pay $1.4 billion more in taxes next year. They say the $90 million cut is insufficient.

It's Just Politics
5:46 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

State Republicans say they want income tax relief... can Democrats afford to vote 'no'?

Republicans in Lansing say they want income-tax relief... can Democrats afford, politically, to say "No?"
Matthileo Flickr

Taxes, as we all know too well, are a powerful political issue. And the issue has come up yet again at the state Capitol. A cut in the state income tax has become part of the negotiations as Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature's top Republican leaders wrap up their budget negotiations. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I sit down to talk politics every Friday and today, in It's Just Politics, it is all the politics of taxes.

Rick Pluta: The governor and the Legislature have set this deadline of June 1 for wrapping up the next state budget.

Zoe Clark: And that's important, because - even though the state's fiscal year begins October 1 - schools, community colleges, cities, townships, and counties all have budget years that begin July 1. They all have budgets that are tied into state spending.

RP: Right. Now, in the final days of discussions, Republicans have put an income tax cut on the table. State House Republicans will roll out the legislation next week.

ZC: So, that begs the question: why are they doing it now?

RP: Well, for a year and a half, Democrats in Lansing have hammered Republicans because all the tax and budget reforms have focused on reducing costs for businesses: eliminating the Michigan Business Tax on 95,000 businesses and the proposal to eliminate the tax on industrial equipment.

ZC: At the same time, a dozen tax credits and exemptions claimed by homeowners, parents, seniors on pensions, and  poor families earning incomes were ended.

RP: And Democrats have been pounding Republicans with that incessantly and with an eye toward the November elections - when, we should note, all 110 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for election.

ZC: So now, courtesy of Republicans, a proposal for income tax relief.

RP: The main bills in the tax rollback package will be sponsored by state Representatives Holly Hughes and Ed McBroom, Republicans representing districts that are considered marginally - 51, 52 percent - Democratic.

ZC: And Democrats most certainly want those seats back.

RP: Exactly, and this shows Republicans intend to put a fight in these seats by giving their incumbents these bills. One accelerates a reduction in the income tax rate; the other increases the personal exemption. But the bottom line is Republicans want the message to be: Republicans equal tax cuts. Democrats, however, have already revealed their counterattack.

ZC: And the counterattack is really what their message has been all along. Since last year, GOP hegemony in Lansing has meant tax cuts to businesses while seniors, homeowners, and working poor families all lost tax breaks that they've counted on, as well as reductions for schools, universities, and local governments.

RP:  Right, so Democrats say this so-called "tax relief:" 50 cents a week, nine dollars a person per year  is pretty meager compared to the costs that everyone has had to pick up in the name of improving the business climate.

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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.

Economy
12:09 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Moderate economic growth forecast in Michigan

The Michigan State Capitol.
Jimmy Emerson Flickr

A UM economic forecaster is predicting moderate economic growth for the state until 2014.

The Detroit Free Press reports that George Fulton, director of the Research Center on Quantitative Economics at the University of Michigan, gave the forecast at today's revenue estimating conference at the state Capitol.

From the Freep:

Private sector job growth will continue in 2013 and 2014 but at a more moderate pace than the rapid growth seen in 2011 and the early part of 2012, Fulton said.

"We see a sustained but moderately paced recovery from now until 2014," he said.

The revenue estimating conference is part of finalizing the state's 2013 budget.

Officials try to reach consensus on how much revenue the state can expect in the coming years.

MPRN's Rick Pluta is covering the conference and will have more for us later.

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.

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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government
12:52 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Public hearing on effort to merge Saugatuck, Douglas set for June

Tom Dailey Creative Commons

The state has rescheduled a public hearing on the proposed consolidation of the cities of Douglas and Saugatuck. The hearing was set for later this month. But the state pushed it back to next month because notice of the hearing wasn’t mailed out at least 30 days prior.

Local leaders were upset the original public meeting was scheduled at a smaller venue in the middle of a workday anyway. It's now been rescheduled for 4p.m. June 20thinside the Saugatuck High School gymnasium.

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Transportation
6:00 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Some in Grand Rapids suburbs want out of bus system

Rapid Central Station in downtown Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Today some people in the Cities of Granville and Walker will begin collecting signatures to get their cities out of the partnership that runs the bus system in metro Grand Rapids. It’s called The Rapid.

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance says it's not against bus transportation in general, but feels the system is wasting tax dollars. The grassroots organization with volunteer staff tries to keeps tabs on taxpayer dollars in local government.

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tax code
1:36 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Stabenow wants to stop businesses from writing off moving expenses overseas

Senator Debbie Stabenow unveiled the "Bring Jobs Home Act" at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids Monday morning. GVSU student senate president Jack Iott is to her right.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow will introduce a bill next week to prevent companies from getting tax write-offs for moving overseas.

Currently businesses can write off moving expenses on their taxes if they’re moving within or out of the country.  But no such break exists for businesses moving into the U.S.

“That makes absolutely no sense,” Stabenow said at a press conference Monday at Grand Valley State University.

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It's Just Politics
2:15 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Role reversal: Michigan Democrats talk taxes as Republicans stay mum

Contemplative Imaging Flickr

Every week, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I take a look at state politics.This week: it's all about the politics of taxes. It was Tax Day this week and that brought out plenty of politicians ready to talk about taxes... but, they weren't the usual suspects.

Dems: It's About Taxes

"We had Democrats coming out and talking about taxes which is kind of an inversion of the way that the political world usually works. On Tax Day, you usually get Republicans coming out talking about how taxes are too high... But [this week] you saw Lansing Democrats coming out and reminding people that 2012 was when seniors who have pension income were taxed on that income for the first time and that the dozen or so tax breaks that people used to be able to apply to their state income taxes are no longer," Pluta explains.

GOP: It's About the Economy

Republicans, instead, focused on an economic message with Governor Snyder tweeting about the state's declining unemployment rate. "The Republican message, right now, is framed a lot more around the economy, not taxes... They're really not even trying to get in front of the tax message. What they're trying to get in front of is the message that 'whatever it is that we're doing, it's working.'"

All Politics is Local... Really?

It's important to note that it's not just state Democrats beating the tax drum. "In this age where most elections are really nationalized, especially in presidential election years, what Democrats are saying and doing in Lansing fits in pretty snuggly alongside what we're hearing from Democrats in Washington  and what President Obama is saying about Republicans, and tax policy, and who should be paying more in taxes," Pluta explains. So, although former U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill made the "all politics is local" line famous, it certainly doesn't hurt state Democrats to be in step with their party's national talking-points.

__________________

This week certainly had it's share of political news: Governor Snyder made a surprise trip to Afghanistan, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed the autism mandate into law and three (out of nine) members were appointed to Detroit's Financial Advisory Board. Pluta and I take a look at these stories and more in an extended edition of It's Just Politics. You can hear the show below:

Politics
5:35 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Republican state lawmakers plan phase-out of Michigan tax on industrial property

automotiveauto.info

The first hearing will be held tomorrow on a Republican plan to phase out taxes on most industrial equipment in Michigan.

Local governments collect about $400 million in revenue a year from the industrial property tax.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley helped design the plan to get rid of the tax over the next several years. He says Michigan is unique in how it taxes industrial property -- and he says it’s driving investments to other states and countries.

“So at the end of the day, it’s about jobs and removing the penalty for investing in Michigan,” Calley said.

But local leaders say the way the phase-out is drafted now, it would force disinvestment in schools, and city services. That’s because it does not replace all the revenue lost to local governments.

Some state lawmakers like Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer agree.

“At best, they only intend to replace 81 percent of the dollars,”Whitmer said. “So does that mean that they are going to cut our fire services 19 percent? They’re also going to cut our police service 19 percent? They’re going to cut our schools an additional 19 percent? How is that made up?”

The communities that would be most affected are industrial cities with the most factories. That includes Michigan's third-largest city, Warren.

Warren mayor Jim Fouts says the city stands to lose $12 million a year in revenue if the tax is repealed.

“It would be absolute disaster," said Fouts, who said he'd be forced to cut public safety and other vital services. 

"It’s a good example of short-term thinking without looking at the long-term consequences, which are draconian consequences.”

Fouts says Lansing has recently shifted more costs and mandates to local governments, while also cutting off their sources of revenue. He sent a letter expressing his concerns to Governor Snyder.

Politics
4:58 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Former Governor Engler: No kicking the can

Former Governor John Engler (right) greets Governor Rick Snyder during his inauguration in 2011. Engler credit Snyder with improving Michigan tax code for businesses.
Joe Ross Creative Commons

Former Michigan Governor John Engler says politicians in Washington need to make important decisions now, despite the general election coming in November.

Engler is now President of Business Roundtable, a national association of CEOs.

He says politicians have a lot of tough decisions to make to keep the U.S. competitive globally. That includes decisions on energy and education; but most importantly, he says, decisions about the tax code and the federal deficit. Engler says those decisions need to made as quickly as possible.

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Politics
6:10 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Dems see political opportunity in tax deadline

Allieosmar Flickr

Democrats in Lansing plan to use this week’s tax-filing deadline to re-open the debate about last year’s tax overhaul at the state Capitol.

Democrats think the tax issue will help them in elections this year. Seniors born after 1946 have their pensions taxed for the first time. Deductions and tax breaks for many charitable donations will be gone when state taxpayers file next year. At the same time, taxes were lowered for many businesses.

Democrats intend to remind voters of that as they try to win an additional nine seats in November to take control of the state House. They say more than a dozen swing districts will be the target of fierce campaigning on the issue of taxes.

Republicans says there are elements of the tax overhaul that were unpopular, but necessary to streamline and simplify tax filing and to make Michigan a more business-friendly state.

Politics
2:29 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Lawmakers may seek less expensive Michigan budget

Michigan's Capitol in Lansing.
user auntowwee Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Lower-than-expected tax collections could threaten parts of Gov. Rick Snyder's next state government budget plan.

Republicans who control the Michigan Senate have preliminary plans to spend roughly $150 million less overall than Snyder has proposed for the fiscal year starting in October.

The targets include about $25 million less than Snyder proposed for information technology system upgrades and $45 million less on the state prison system.

The Senate targets do not reduce Snyder's funding proposals for education. Proposed spending would be relatively flat for K-12 schools, while universities and community colleges could get average increases of about 3 percent.

The Snyder administration says it's too early to change its budget plan, noting more information will be available when state economists gather in May for an official revenue estimating conference.

Politics
4:18 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Lawmakers working to replace Michigan's gas tax with a sales tax increase

Paying less at the pump, but more in the store. Michigan voters may decide whether to replace the state's gas tax with an increase in the sales tax this fall.
user orinzebest Flickr

Voters may soon decide whether Michigan should scrap the 19-cents-per-gallon tax on gas at the pump in favor of a sales tax increase of 1 percent.

The change would help generate more money for transportation funding.

A proposal to put the question to voters is gaining momentum with some legislative leaders.

That change would require a constitutional amendment and put the question to voters on the ballot.

Republican state Senator Howard Walker sponsored the measure. He said if taxpayers are asked to pay more to fix the state’s roads, they should have a voice.

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