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Governor’s Tax Plan Passes House After 24-Hour Standoff

February 13, 2023

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

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s tax cut proposal passed the House Thursday, 56-53, when, after 24 hours of waiting, Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden) joined the Democratic caucus in voting for it.

Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City) remained the sole Democratic no vote despite being leaned on most of the day by the governor’s team and House Democratic leadership.

The House had hoped to pass the compromise conference committee on HB 4001 on Wednesday, but Wegela’s opposition threw a wrench into the gears. The House came back Thursday with the sole intention of passing the measure, and it took nearly the entirety of the business day to do so.

Under the conference report for HB 4001, more retirement income will be exempted from the income tax, the Earned Income Tax Credit will be expanded to 30% of the federal level and $800 million will be transferred to a separate fund for $180 rebates.

The transfer is likely going to prevent a 0.2 percentage point roll back in the income tax rate, which has Republicans agitated. It also moves $500 million to the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund, which was what cemented Wegela’s no vote.

“In a turn of events that will shock absolutely no one, Republicans’ alleged commitment to repealing the retirement tax and providing support for working families disappeared immediately when it was time to put their words into action,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Not only are the components included in this bill package broadly popular and just plain good policy; they’re ideas Michigan Republicans claimed to support all last year while they ran for re-election.”

The vote on HB 4001 came after a long morning with no action and several terse discussions between House Democratic leadership. Speaker Pro Tempore Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) invoked a rule that orders all members back to their seats. When several members remained out of the chamber, she evoked the call of the House, which locks all House members into the chamber.

Within 10 minutes after mandating members back to the chamber, the House took up HB 4001. Member speeches were not permitted, which led to loud dissent from the Republican caucus and an attempt by Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Osseo) to deliver his speech over roll call voting.

Fink’s big question was, “What are they afraid of?”

“What was I going to say in the four minutes it was going to take me to give a speech that was going to make them so sad that . . . What was going to happen? They weren’t going to get the votes?” he said. “They’re one floor speech away from losing the votes on this bill that they designed to take away a tax cut from the people to give money to corporations and take it from mainstream businesses.”

House Democrats came to the offer as an alternative to a second conference committee, which went at ease, and which House Democratic Communications Director Amber McCann said was a backup plan.

“We don’t plan to,” she said when asked if there would be a return to committee to amend the SOAR fund portion, or any other parts, of the bill. “When you reach consensus among the two chambers and the Executive, it’s time to act.”

But Fink said the lack of discourse will also make it difficult to cooperate with Democrats in the future, if they won’t debate the “merits of this stupid bill that they are afraid are going to be exposed.”

Aiyash responded that “there’s nothing stupid about giving immediate relief to working families across the state,” adding that conversations regarding tax relief hadn’t been a secret.

House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said the decision to avoid floor speeches was a result of needing to move forward and said he’s willing to move quickly to provide Michiganders tax relief.

Tate said Mueller wasn’t promised anything to vote yes on the bill, and that the bill was done in a bipartisan fashion, though he expressed a wish for more Republican support.

To some members on the other side, Tate said, “They know what they did.”

He did not elaborate further on what he meant, but restated his point from Wednesday that they gave members adequate time to read up on the bill by taking it up later in the afternoon on Thursday.

“There was an opportunity for members to read through the conference report,” he said. “There were certainly no secrets or surprises when the conference report was published yesterday.”

When asked if Senate Republicans would be in favor of granting immediate effect after actions in the House, House Minority Floor Leader Bryan Posthumus (R-Rockford) said, “I fully expect the Senate to refrain from giving immediate effect, but I can’t speak for the Senate.”

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