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Focus After Spring Break Will Be On Budget

March 21, 2023

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog e-newsletter

The breakneck pace at which Democrats are moving their top priorities will slow into a “steady state of work” after spring break, predicted House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) Tuesday during the Michigan Society of Association Executives conference.

Tate said there were no surprises in terms of the Democratic majority’s priorities. After these make their way to the governor by spring break, he said he expects the House to move in a direction that is more bipartisan.

The Fiscal Year 2024 budget will dominate the conversation after Spring Break and he sees an opportunity to work together in “bipartisan fashion to deliver a budget for the state.”

“I know it sounds cliché when we have these conversations but there’s a lot of commonality in terms of what we can do and how we can move forward together,” Tate said.

The first couple of months have been about building trust and relationships and Tate conceded, that does take some time. With the term limits reform of 2022, however, he believes that being allowed to serve 12 total years in the House provides an opportunity for members to become subject matter experts and better able to fall into a role.

“With half of the caucus being new, it’s just going to take some time, and that serves as a challenge, but an opportunity, as well,” Tate said.

Also, with all legislators able to stay as many as 12 years, there is a great opportunity to get done an issue that may take six, eight or 10 years.

For his part, House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo) said his biggest challenge in these first couple months is finding a balance between fighting for what members believe in, but also working with the other side to get some wins for the Republican caucus.

As for improving relations between the two caucuses, Hall said he’s going to make it a priority to meet with the Speaker at least once a week.

“I think we both started that. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, but I did so, we’re trying to set that tone,” said Hall, adding that former Speaker Jason Wentworth and House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski “met very infrequently, if at all. I mean, not at all, really.”

Hall said his caucus doesn’t trust Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and “they’re trying to figure out if they can trust House Democrats and the Senate Democrats. As a caucus leader, I have to go out a little bit on a limb when I’m negotiating.”

It’s not easy to listen to 54 different people, figure out what they want and try to lead them there. But if negotiations are successful and Democrats deliver on their promises, “more members of my caucus are converted to the idea” that “we can work in good faith and we can get some wins . . . and we can trust each other.”

The Minority Leader said when both sides were directly negotiating, as was the case with the Marshall-Ford supplemental, there was a direct result.

When the two sides were negotiating through press releases, “none of us got what we wanted.”

As for the governor’s tax plan this year, the governor vetoed a 20% Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a 3.9% income tax rate and a $40,000 senior income tax exemption. The bill signed into law created a 30% EITC, a 4.05% income tax rate and a $57,000 senior income tax exemption over four years.

“We could have made that deal last year,” Hall said.

In other news:

– Tate said he’d be willing to take a look at giving immediate effect to tax policy changes that could get an immediate effect vote in the Senate, but he said the focus right now is on “delivering a valuable budget to the state of Michigan.”

– Tate also did not commit to having a budget passed by July 1.

“We need to be thoughtful in terms of making sure that we have the best budget possible and if it takes some time to get it right, we will do that,” he said.

Hall Takes Some Shots

Meanwhile, Hall delivered some jabs regarding the prior House leadership on both sides of the aisle.

– On moving into former House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski’s office, Hall said they needed to move out a bookcase and bring in some chairs for meetings because “nobody ever met with Leader Lasinski… because she wasn’t a negotiator.

“She wasn’t able to get her caucus to do something, so we had to go to you,” Hall said to Tate. “You remember that?”

Tate didn’t respond.

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