Oh Michigan!

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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‘O’ stands for October — and it also stands for Opportunity.

With just a few short weeks before the Nov. 4 election, now is your best chance as a concerned Michigan citizen to make a difference.

You can do this by:

1. Informing candidates for public office about policies you support.
2. Asking candidates about those issues so you can vote for the person who best reflects your priorities.

There’s a lot at stake in this election. In state elections, all 110 members of the House of Representatives and 38 Senate members will be elected in addition to the governor.

To help sort through this monumental task, the League has identified 15 public policy areas.

One of the biggest is what to do about our crumbling roads. Solutions offered are increasing the sales tax, creating a wholesale tax on gas, raising vehicle registration fees or diverting sales tax revenue. Creating or increasing taxes, especially the sales tax, will disproportionately affect those earning low wages.

Here’s the question to ask your candidates:

“Do you support increased or new revenue to address Michigan’s crumbling roads and infrastructure? Would you support increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit or other tax credit to help offset the burden on people earning low wages?”

Beware of the candidate who has a simple solution. If the answer is to just make roads a priority for funding, what happens to the other services such as health and education that now must make do with a smaller funding pot? Those who would simply increase the sales tax risk ignoring the realities of our economy — that families with low incomes pay a much bigger share of their income in sales tax than wealthier families.

Another question for candidates focuses on child poverty, which has escalated by 40% over the last 25 years with nearly one in every four Michigan kids now living in poverty. That’s $19,000 a year or less for a family of three and $24,000 for a family of four. The question for candidates:

“Several policy initiatives to alleviate child poverty have been suggested, such as raising the minimum wage to $10.10 — closer to its value in the 1960s and indexing it to inflation, reinstating the state Earned income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal EITC, and raising the child care subsidy and easing eligibility requirements, parents earning low wages can access child care. Would you support any of these initiatives?”

A newer policy area of work for the League looks at clean energy and health-related costs of coal-fired electricity generating units that more deeply affect people of color and those who are economically vulnerable. To explore this, ask your candidate:

“Would you support transitioning from coal to clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power to reduce pollution and improve the health of Michiganians?”

For more help and background, see the League’s full set of questions, candidate fact sheets by district and advocacy basics.

When policies, debates and energy are focused on reducing child poverty, improving tax policy and making our air clean, we will be able to celebrate another ‘O.’

That would be for Outstanding!

– By Gilda Z. Jacobs

Small problems get big with misplaced priorities

In kindergarten classrooms in one Michigan school district, work tables are now cleaned only weekly instead of daily due to severe budget cuts that have reduced cleaning staff and supplies. Teachers must buy their own cleaners and wash the tables to maintain sanitary conditions for the youngest students

The dirty tables was one of the anecdotes offered about Michigan’s misguided spending priorities during a news conference held at the Capitol this morning by Priorities Michigan. (more…)

A stronger Michigan economy is within reach

Yes we can grow Michigan’s economy, create good jobs and expand opportunities for all Michiganians with the right public policy decisions. A new report by Erica Williams at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities outlines how policymakers can make that happen.

Williams explains that states need to invest adequately in education, healthcare, transportation and workforce development. And in order to do that, they need to make decisions about how to raise and spend revenues with an eye toward the future. (more…)

State budget must offer economic opportunity

Join us in urging state lawmakers to support the investments in children and families that are needed to reduce poverty, help low-wage workers, restore funding for public schools and universities, and ensure that communities have the revenues needed to provide the basic services that residents and employers need to thrive and help the economy grow.

Joint House/Senate conference committees are beginning to meet today to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget. After conferees sign a negotiated conference report, the budgets are sent to the full House and Senate, where they can be approved or rejected, but not amended. (more…)

Bad for MI: higher ed less affordable

Those of us moving our college students home for the summer this week probably are not surprised by a new national report showing that Michigan has made deep cuts in funding for colleges and universities, leading to steep increases in tuition.

Compared with other states, I’m afraid Michigan doesn’t look so good. Policymakers in Michigan cut per-student state spending more than 37 other states from 2008 to 2014—a 28% cut in state support. Michigan’s average tuition increase of over $2,000 (a 21% increase) during that time is higher than 34 other states. (more…)

Can you talk effectively about the state budget?

As many of us know, it is not just about what you say, but how you say it.

We can agree that the state budget is an important issue, but often times eyes glaze over when we talk about it. This can be because people do not understand the budget and find it much more enthralling to talk policy.

However, it is important to realize that most policy decisions are made through the budget process. For example, you cannot create policy on education, without first knowing how much money will be allocated towards the area for each budget year. Creating that budget is the first step. (more…)

EITC is perfect vehicle for the governor

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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Gov. Rick Snyder unveils his fourth executive budget Wednesday and worthy of applause is the fact that he has rejected the across-the-board rollback of Michigan’s personal income tax.

The governor indicated in his State of the State address last month that he wants a tax cut but one that is targeted to working families — those “hardworking Michiganders who get up every day and pack their lunch and go to work.” (more…)

Rolling back progress

The Senate Finance Committee Wednesday approved a bill to reduce the state’s personal income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9% by 2017, a move that would reduce state revenues by up to $874 million when fully implemented in Fiscal Year 2018.

While the purely political appeal of a tax cut during an election season is obvious, the League testified, based on a recently released report, that the risks to Michigan’s economy far outweigh any benefits. Low- and moderate-income workers will see little in return while the wealthiest taxpayers would benefit the most. (more…)

Tax cuts won’t grow the economy

A new report by the League demonstrates that across-the-board cuts in the state’s personal income tax would not boost Michigan’s economy, but could affect long-term prosperity by locking in cuts in funding for public schools, community colleges, universities, health care and public safety—the very services that fuel economic growth.

Despite the claims of several legislative leaders advocating for a tax cut, there is no evidence that income tax cuts generate good jobs or economic growth. In fact, a study of 65 years of data by the Congressional Research Service found that top income tax rates have had no discernible impact on economic growth, and states that cut taxes the most during the 1990s and 2000s saw their economies fall behind in job creation, as well as production and income growth. (more…)

Making Michigan a true comeback state

You may be hearing a lot about “surplus” revenue as the state budget season kicks off – and more importantly, how to spend it.

Last week, the House Fiscal Agency, Senate Fiscal Agency and Michigan Department of Treasury, put their heads together to give a new prediction. The upshot — nearly $1 billion more than expected. It would have been higher, but Treasury gave a very conservative estimate of $700,000 in unexpected revenue for the three years — the 2013 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the 2014 fiscal year that started Oct. 1 and Fiscal Year 2015. (more…)

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