Duggan’s Tax Reform Stalls In House After Member’s Medical Emergency
October 10, 2023
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s property tax reform package stalled on the House floor Thursday after a Democratic member needed urgent medical attention, depriving the Democrats of the 56 votes needed to pass the bill without Republican support.
Still, some Democrats have some suggestions regarding the Land Tax Equity Act – HB 4966, HB 4967, HB 4968, HB 4969 and HB 4970 – which would allow local governments to cut homeowners’ property taxes while increasing taxes on larger pieces of land. The idea is to prod blighted property owners to sell or develop.
Duggan gave the Legislature an end of October deadline, and House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) has listed the package as one of his top priorities this fall, with a plan to take it up Thursday.
But House Democratic Spokesperson Amber McCann said the session was unexpectedly cut short Thursday when a member had a medical emergency and had to leave the floor.
McCann did not disclose who the member was, but said they were enroute to seek medical attention, adding that she’s not sure if there will be a full House next week.
The public voting record would indicate that Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) missed a floor vote taken on an unrelated bill after being present earlier. She was the only Democrat not to vote Thursday and did not return to session.
When asked about the state of the package, McCann said Tate is still talking with caucus members, who brought forward a few things for him to consider. One suggestion was that the local vote on a land tax proposal be held on general election dates only.
McCann did not speculate on whether the general election change would foil Duggan’s plan to get the tax proposal implemented by 2025.
She added that a couple of other members felt there was potential value in their cities also being able to benefit from the proposed Detroit legislation, but did not say which cities were being considered for addition, if any.
McCann did not mention if Detroit Democrats had leftover concerns about the proposal, after Rep. Kristian C. Grant (D-Grand Rapids) hesitated in the House Tax Policy Committee following testimony by several Detroiters in opposition, citing distrust with Duggan and his administration.
Their testimony resulted in Grant initially passing on the package when it was voted out.
She later changed her vote to yes, after Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit) offered an amendment allowing a majority vote of a city council to revert to its prior tax rate if the land equity tax was not working for Detroiters.
Despite the amendment, Detroit City Council Member Mary Waters opposed the legislation Thursday, calling its passage a “rapid, opaque process that is orchestrated to disenfranchise voters of their right to make an informed choice at the ballot box.”
“Our responsibility as legislators is to act in the best interests of our community and be faithful stewards of the people’s money,” Waters said. “When radical changes are proposed, ones that impact the pocketbooks of our constituents and our community’s financial stability, we must be circumspect, transparent and deliberative.”
She said the proposed package could “drastically transform Detroit homeowners’ and business owners’ tax burden and create fiscal instability for our city.
“Unfortunately, this transformative legislation is being rushed through the legislative process in Lansing, stifling the voices of our community members that are most directly impacted,” Waters wrote.
Former Rep. Cynthia Johnson was asked to leave the floor for a second time this week while lobbying against the package.
Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter