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

Census numbers tell of stagnancy and slow recovery

Today is the big day that comes each year: the release of American Community Survey figures on income and poverty.

Ready for some numbers?

Michigan’s household median income in 2013 ($48,273) was a bit higher than in 2012, but is nearly $1,000 lower than in 2009. The income bracket that grew the largest from 2009 to 2013 was the share of Michigan households who make under $10,000 a year. The only other income bracket with a significant share increase was households making more than $200,000 a year. These numbers taken together suggest that the slow economic recovery in Michigan is primarily benefiting those at higher incomes. (more…)

World class colleges, sluggish financial aid

It is a point of pride among Michiganians that we have great public universities and private colleges.

We have two Top Ten universities that are friendly rivals, and high-quality regional universities. In addition to providing an excellent education for Michigan residents, our universities attract respected scholars and cream-of-the crop students from all over the world. We have a number of widely respected private colleges as well. (more…)

Flood waters: a taxing problem

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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My family and I were unfortunate enough to experience the recent flooding in Southeast Michigan. Despite the fact that we lost appliances, some precious photos and an assortment of stuff we had accumulated over the past 37 years, we will be OK. We had insurance and were able to get a company to clean and sanitize our basement very quickly. And we will not need to go into our retirement funds to make our losses whole. (more…)

If there’s a will, there’s a way

A new video and visually engaging report out today strongly makes the case for rebuilding the state’s education system, protecting Michigan’s abundant natural resources and investing in roads and our communities.

The project is called The Michigan Dream at Risk, from the Michigan Economic Center, an affiliate of Prima Civitas, a nonprofit organization that works to create resilient, adaptable communities in Michigan.

Gilda Z. Jacobs, the League’s president and CEO, and board members Charley Ballard and Bob Kleine were interviewed for the project. (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 balancing act

As Michigan lawmakers head off to Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce policy conference, they are scrambling to resolve several big ticket issues that have slowed down the budget process and could reduce the amount of money available for services critical to our state’s economic development.

First is how best to fund much-needed improvements in Michigan roads, bridges and public transit. The governor wants at least $1.3 billion a year for improvements while some think that isn’t enough. There is little controversy that something needs to be done, but much disagreement on how to pay for it. (more…)

Feel-good proposal is bad public policy

A new proposal to create so-called sales tax holidays here in Michigan may sound appealing, but it’s poor public policy.

Sen. Mark Jansen’s proposal (Senate Bill 943) exempts certain items from the sales tax for several days prior to camping season, the beginning of school and hunting season. The idea is that eliminating the sales tax during certain times of the year will help low-income taxpayers, spur spending and cost the state little in revenue, but the facts show otherwise.

And because of that, it’s not surprising that in recent years a number of states have ended their sales tax holidays. (more…)

Mich.’s working families pay $247 million more

The numbers are in and they show that the reduction in the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit from 20% of the federal credit to 6% has resulted in a $247 million tax increase on low-income working families.

Recently released data on the Michigan EITC for tax year 2012 from the Brookings Institution and the Michigan Department of Treasury reveal the actual EITC dollars lost for hardworking Michigan families. (more…)

Tax cuts do not lead to prosperity

Two new studies out this week should help drive a stake through the heart of the argument that cutting taxes will lead to prosperity.

For far too long tax cuts have been the tool of choice for Michigan policymakers. And guess what? Tax cuts don’t work as promised. (more…)

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