Politics & Prejudices
Republican Tax Cut Insanity
Whatever you think of him, at least Snyder gets infrastructure.
Published: February 5, 2014
Our lawmakers want to give us an election-year tax cut. Gotta love ’em, especially the Republicans. They’re always looking out for us little guys. Take State Sen. Jack Brandenburg, for example, from Harrison Township.
Boat town, in other words, up in Macomb County. Brandenburg has a bill that would reduce the state income tax by one tenth of a percent each year for the next three years.
Why, imagine the riches you’ll realize. Why, if you have taxable income of $30,000, you might save … $30.
Thirty dollars! That would mean a winter vacation in Florida for most of us, no doubt, with Lobster Thermidor every night. Brandy’s bill sailed through the Senate Finance Committee, with only sour old Democrats opposing it.
“We have a moral obligation to return dollars to the tax-paying public at every opportunity,” said his buddy, Sen. Dave Robertson of Grand Blanc Township. What a hero!
Actually, what utter and complete bullshit.
Whenever you think our lawmakers couldn’t possibly come up with another way to ruin our state and wreck its ability to be competitive and serve its citizens, they surprise you.
Cutting taxes would be the most irresponsible thing they could possibly do. Education — classroom education, not pension funds — is woefully underfunded. This “tax cut” would be utterly meaningless to most people, except as it hurts them.
Our state doesn’t have enough money to do what it needs to maintain the public good now. This would leave it with considerably less — possibly almost a billion less a year, according to an analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency itself.
Now you can argue — wrongly, but plausibly — that too much money is spent on teacher pensions and not enough in the classroom. You might haggle over other state spending.
But here’s one thing nobody can deny, especially if they’ve left the house anytime this winter: Our roads are bad and getting worse. The longer we wait to fix them, the more it will cost. Regardless of that, the legislature refuses to do anything about it. Despite being begged over and over, they won’t appropriate the money to prevent our cars from being destroyed and our roads from turning into a pitted and dangerous disgrace.
Gov. Rick Snyder, whatever else you think of him, gets this, just as he gets the need for a new Detroit River bridge, and for the same two reasons: He is ultimately a businessman, and knows that if you want to get business to expand or even stay in Michigan, you need decent infrastructure.
Plus, one of the benefits of multimillionaire politicians is that they’re usually less interested in bribes disguised as campaign contributions, which is why he was immune to Matty Moroun.
But there’s no excuse for not fixing the roads, except for the cowardice of politicians afraid that voters will punish them for raising taxes, no matter how critically necessary the expense.
Incidentally, I have a direct personal interest in fixing the roads. So do you, whether you realize it or not. Two weeks ago, driving on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, I hit a pothole that completely destroyed a fairly new tire.
There was no way I could have swerved to miss it. It was dark, there was lots of traffic, and I never saw it. Replacing the tire cost me $250, not to mention time and aggravation.
Days later, I talked to Mary Lou Zieve, a longtime fundraiser for the arts who just had the same experience in her Cadillac on Maple Road in Birmingham.
Why do I mention the locations? Simply to show that we weren’t off-roading it or zipping around the worst parts of the neglected and crumbling ’hood.
Instead, both of us lost relatively new tires on nice cars in the heart of affluent, prosperous suburbia. My only surprise is that I haven’t lost the other three tires on Detroit streets.
My guess is that we’re among thousands who have suffered the same fate, or worse, this winter.
Fortunately, we could both afford to get our cars fixed. A lot of people really can’t, even though a lot more of them are about to suffer from one of Michigan’s atrocious roads.
Two years ago, Snyder proposed raising $1.2 billion a year for a decade to get our roads back in shape. This wasn’t to add new roads; just the minimum needed to get the old ones back where they should be. He would have done this partly by raising car and truck registration fees, but mostly by a 9-cent-a gallon boost in the gas tax. I thought he needed to raise fees more on commercial trucks, the ones that pound the roads to dust, and less on passenger cars. But raising the gas tax made perfect sense, even from a libertarian point of view:
The more you used the roads, the more you would pay. The price of gas fluctuates so much anyway that almost nobody would notice nine cents. But the legislative leaders ignored the governor, even though they’re all Republicans.
Last year, Snyder pushed harder to get money to fix our roads. Transportation experts agreed that if road repair were put off only a few years, the damage would cost twice as much to fix.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) essentially sneered at the governor, and indicated there was no way he would get the money needed to fix the roads.
For once, Randy was as good as his word. Soon thereafter, a trucking magazine rated Michigan’s roads the second worst in the nation. This year, Snyder is running for re-election, and appeared to have given up trying to fix the roads.
Instead, he has jumped on the tax cut bandwagon, and is calling for a $100 million “targeted tax cut,” though as of this writing, he is unwilling to say how it would work.
My guess is that the voters aren’t as stupid as chuckleheads like Brandenburg think. As I was writing this column, I got a note from Johannes Cawood, a veteran and a plumber. “Just bent my rim on one of the monster potholes on our roads. WTF, State of Michigan? Can we please drop the idea of a tax cut that will barely affect me and fix the damn roads that are costing me hundreds in car repairs?’
> Email Jack Lessenberry