Michigan Legislative Update
Week of May 8, 2015
by Judy Augenstein
Michigan voters have defeated a ballot proposal designed to raise $1.2 billion for roads in a massive, but expected blow towards the effort to address the long running shortfall in what the state spends on road maintenance and construction. The proposal would have raised the sales tax from 6 % to 7 % had voters approved the increase. Ten statutes passed during the 2014 "lame duck" session would have taken effect if the proposal passed. The bills were designed to more than double the gasoline tax, remove the sales tax on gasoline for motor vehicles and some increases and changes to vehicle registration fees. The sales tax increase would have covered the lost revenues from lifting the tax off of gasoline and also provide enough for increased funding to schools, local governments and re-established Michigan's Earned Income Tax Credit which Republicans eliminated during Governor Snyder's first term.
The opponents of the proposal could not overcome confusion at its complexity, opposition to a tax increase, general mistrust of government and resistance to broadening the proposal to more than just roads. Opposition to the plan was not well organized, but did not need to be and the proposal just seemed to collapse under its own weight.
The House Natural Resources Committee took testimony this week on SB 217, sponsor Senator Darwin Booher, R-Evart. The measure amends the General Property Tax Act to specify that a parcel of property that contains a combination of agricultural use property and productive forest would be considered qualified forest property rather than qualified ag property with regard to eligibility for an exemption from school operating taxes. If a parcel contains both productive forest and ag use property an owner could apply for a designation as qualified forest property if the combined acreage of the parcel met certain conditions. GLTPA and MAT registered "support" of the bill this week as we did when the bill was debated by the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
This week Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township and I continued to gather co-sponsors for legislation to require religious sects pay workers compensation. So far we have Rep's Glarden-R, Kivela-D, McBroom-D, Lane-D, Barrett-R, Sheppard-R, Schor-D, Dianda-D, Johnson-D, LaFontaine-R, Potvin-R and Rendon-R. I secured the legislators from the effort last year and continue to muster support from new members of the committee including Rep. Sheppard, VC and Rep. Schor, democratic chair. It appears easier to convince Democrats to sign on to the bill than convince some Republicans. I will be meeting with some of the "newbies" next week to discuss the issue and pictures of the Amish mills.
My legislator, Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville was aware of the unfair competition his constituent Johnson Lumber has with the Amish and signed on. We should have a bill number next week. My strategy is to have a bi-partisan bill with as many committee members co-sponsor as possible because when the bill comes up for debate it is difficult for them to debate or vote against the bill.