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MI Senate Dems adopt delayed tax legislation

Vote came along party lines amidst arguments over who most deserves a break.

The Michigan Senate on Thursday adopted along party lines a proposal to send rebate checks to taxpayers and expand the earned income tax credit. The Democratic majority also folded in a dose of political revenge before the day was done.

The Democratic tax plan approved by the Senate would send every tax filer a $180 rebate check, reduce taxes on pensions and other retirement income, and expand the state earned income tax credit.

It would also provide ongoing revenue to a state economic development fund.

The net effect would also likely be to stop an automatic reduction in the state income tax rate under a law that kicks in when the state has a big budget surplus.

“Not only does this proposal miss the mark on things that should have been done very easily. It includes a bait-and-switch scheme to cheat all Michigan taxpayers out of a long-term tax relief that they were promised,” said Senate Republican leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp.).

Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said the Democrats’ targeted tax package would give the most help to lower-income taxpayers.

“We need to make sure that we are focusing our relief efforts on those who need it,” she said. Not exacerbating income inequality, not giving crumbs year after year after year to families that need it now.”

The Senate approved the bill on a 20-17 party-line vote. But the bill cannot be activated in time for this year’s tax season without a two-thirds super-majority vote to give it immediate effect. Democrats plan to try again next week.

The vote would have taken place last week except Republicans used a procedural ploy to abruptly adjourn the session while Democrats were in a closed-door caucus meeting and left the Senate floor untended.

In retribution, the Democratic majority eliminated the position of Republican associate president pro tempore. That job belonged to Senator Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe), who officially gaveled the Senate out of session last week. Bellino and Senate Minority Floor Leader Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) each lost two committee assignments.

Republicans cried foul.

“You don’t punish the opposition and change the rules because you aren’t getting your way in pushing higher taxes on Michigan families and small businesses,” said Nesbitt, the Republican leader, in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (R-Grand Rapids) said it’s possible for the Republicans to win back their committee seats.

“When we can work together respectfully and when there’s some time with that under our belt and they’ve demonstrated that they’re willing to work together in a productive and professional way,” she said, “there’s an opportunity for a reconsideration of that.”

It also gives Democrats some cards to play as they try to pick enough Republican votes to let the tax bill take effect this year.

“We’ll see what happens,” Brinks said. “We’ll have some conversations and if we think that there’s an opportunity for that to happen, we’ll put it up there. If it becomes clear that Republicans will refuse … we may just send it to the governor.”