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Leonard scrounges for income tax votes

February 22, 2017

Article courtesy of MIRS News Service

The income tax rollback measure breezed out of committee on Wednesday, but ran smack dab into the middle of a strong headwind on the House floor.

With all but maybe one Democrat against HB 4001, Republicans can afford to only lose nine votes from their caucus. MIRS has learned there are at least six hard “no” votes in the caucus to the bill, but maybe at least a dozen more who would prefer a vote not be taken without more consideration.

The bill is putting some members in a tough political spot. On one hand, they don’t want to go on record as opposing an income tax cut, but they have strong reservations on how the state would backfill the lost $9 billion in revenue or make the necessarily severe budget cuts.

The Republican caucus has not met specifically to hash out HB 4001, which moved out of the Tax Policy Committee with two GOP members abstaining.

House Speaker Tom LEONARD (R-DeWitt) told reporters there is overwhelming support, but an inside-the-caucus source said there are several “no” votes to varying degrees. Some are “hell nos.” Others would prefer a different plan. Still others would rather not vote on it, but would go up green under the presumption that the Senate would do something different or the Governor would veto it.

Rep. Larry INMAN (R-Traverse City) went on Michigan’s Big Show with Michael Patrick SHIELS to say proposing a tax cut before going through the appropriations process to identify funding priorities is “backward.”

Inman said that based on his 20-some years of government experience he believes the more responsible way to go about a tax cut is to fund priorities through an appropriations process and then give back to the taxpayers what is left over.

“They want us to go in reverse . . . we have to decide where the cuts are and they may not be popular,” he said. “We walk the plank.”

At least one House Democrat — Rep. Scott DIANDA (D-Calumet) — said he plans on being a “yes” vote. The Governor’s proposed budget was 2.5 percent larger than the prior year and Dianda said the gradual increases must stop.

Many of his taxpaying constituents don’t have the luxury to count on an inflationary growth in their spending and government shouldn’t either, he said.

The House Republican plan is to cut the 4.25 percent income tax to 3.9 percent on Jan. 1 and then ratchet the income tax rate down a tenth of a percentage point until it completely expires in roughly 40 years.

Some might find it unusual that the first card played by the Speaker’s office was this one, which is usually reserved for use down the road rather than at the outset of negotiations for votes.

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