How people power beat politics, stopped income tax cut

We did it! In the early hours of the morning on February 23rd, the Michigan House of Representatives voted down House Bill 4001 to cut Michigan’s income tax 55-52 with bipartisan opposition. This was a major victory for Michigan’s schools, roads, public safety and other vital public services that we all depend on, as this bill would have slashed billions from the state budget. And this was a major victory for you, as the League and our supporters were instrumental in helping defeat this bill.

The odds were certainly stacked against us, and passage of a state income tax cut seemed like a foregone conclusion. But we knew the stakes for our state were too high and refused to accept that, and you did too.

With a budget impact of anywhere from $250 million to $9 billion, the League led the charge against repealing or cutting Michigan’s income tax. We spoke out against it as soon as we heard the idea was being discussed and at every subsequent opportunity we got, including the bill’s introduction, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, the governor’s State of the State address and his budget presentation.

The League also pointed out the significant struggles in Kansas after they cut their income tax, as did a blog from the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And we compiled data to show that an income tax cut would largely benefit the wealthy.

73 percent MI oppose_March 2017 GRAPHICTo allow the people of Michigan to weigh in on cutting the state income tax, the League commissioned a statewide poll that showed voters opposed eliminating the state’s income tax without replacement 74% to 16%. This included people from all political affiliations and areas of the state. I also testified in opposition to HB 4001 at the committee hearing along with several of our partners representing Michigan’s schools and local communities.

But our most effective strategy was to engage with people like you across the state and enable you to reach out to legislators directly to voice your opposition to cutting the state income tax. To date, 1,110 Michigan residents have sent approximately 8,000 emails to Michigan legislators. This flurry of activity in the week leading up to the vote had a major impact, and we are extremely grateful to all of you who joined us in this effort.

We also have to thank all of our partner organizations, representing Michigan’s schools, colleges and universities, communities, infrastructure, businesses, hospitals, workers and more, who mobilized quickly and helped fight this attack on our way of life and the budget funding that sustains it.

The ultimate credit for stopping this bill, though, goes to the 55 legislators who stood up to intense political pressure and took a courageous vote against this proposal—especially the 12 Republicans who crossed party lines and voted no. If you haven’t already, please thank these 55 legislators. Since the vote, 584 people have sent 32,120 emails thanking these representatives, and we have heard from numerous lawmakers that this encouragement is truly appreciated.

While we have won this battle, the war continues. The House bill technically could be taken back up at any time. The Senate Finance Committee Chair has introduced a bill in the Senate to outright repeal the state income tax and is convening a work group on it. And as budget negotiations get underway, the process could be used to make cuts and generate the revenue to reduce the income tax.

So, we need to keep fighting. Successfully defeating this bill was a major coup, but we have to stay vigilant and engaged as many other attacks on state revenue are sure to come. Thanks again to our partners, the 55 Representatives who voted no, and all of you who helped stave off this disastrous bill. Michigan is better off because of you.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs