May 8, 2022
Both chambers have now passed their versions of department budgets and the next step is conference committees composed of representatives from each chamber’s appropriation sub-committee. The May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference will be held May 20, after which there will be a more exact picture of State revenue available to finance the budget for Fiscal Year 2023 starting October 1, 2022, and beyond.
Senate — Gross spending between the 17 Senate budget bills totals $74.2 billion, with $17.9 billion for the School Aid Fund. Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Jim Stamas (R-Midland) told reporters the Legislature is on track for a late June or early July completion of the budget. He was particularly pleased with the increase in per-pupil foundation allowance and efforts to close the funding gap between school districts.
House — The House majority approved a cumulative $76.3 billion in budget bills on May 4 and 5. Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said that the result of House Republican efforts created a budget that emphasized "paying down debt and saving for the future." The Democrats slammed some of the budget bills as political theater since they were not negotiated with House Democrats or the Governor.
Remote Work — May 1 marked the end of an extension to the deadline for employees to return to "approved work schedules" as determined by State departments. The Legislature has added boilerplate language to budget bills to require State workers back to workplaces full time starting October 1, 2022.
About 49 percent of Michigan's 47,000 State employees have been working remotely during the past 12 months. The State has canceled 18 leases since February 2020, seven of which were in downtown Lansing and accounted for 151,036 square feet. Consequently, merchants near State offices or facilities and their local governments have suffered from reduced commercial activity and the taxes that go with it.
PENSION TAX REPEAL
The Senate budget contains a $2 billion carve-out, half in one-time and half in ongoing funding, for an as-yet unspecified tax cut for residents. The House has preserved $1 billion for tax cuts. Recall that Senate and House Republicans in March sent the Governor a $2 billion tax cut in Senate Bill 768 that included a reduction of the income tax for individuals and businesses, modification of the pension tax, and a $500 child tax credit. She vetoed the bill because she wants to spend that $2 billion on smaller targeted tax changes like repeal of the pension tax over 3 years and expenditures on education, environment, roads, and other budget priorities.
Speak Up Now or Be Disappointed! All SERA members need to contact the Governor and your local State legislators to keep pension tax repeal in their minds over the next few weeks as the budget is negotiated between the Governor and Legislature. You can write the Governor online, mail her a letter at P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, Michigan 48909, or reach her office by phone at 517-335-7858 and leave a message. Find the contact information for your State Representative at www.house.mi.gov/#findarepresentative. Find the contact information for your State Senator at www.senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html. Your message is “Please repeal the tax on private pensions and our retirement savings and investments!”
New Voter Registratrion Cards — In May or June, registered voters in Michigan should receive their new Voter Registration Cards based on the new lines drawn by the Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission (MICRC) and your county redistricting process. Call your city, township, or county clerk if you are a registered voter and do not receive your Voter Registration Card by the end of June.
If you are not registered to vote or have changed addresses since last registering to vote, go online at www.michigan.gov/vote and fill out the voter registration/change of address form, or contact your local clerk. The next voting opportunity is for the primary on August 2.
Maps Available — The MICRC rolled out on its website more readable maps than the original ones approved on December 28, 2021. These maps allow the user to clearly see the boundaries of each U.S. House, State Senate, and State House district. Additionally, a user can see all three districts in a separate county. Users can put in an address to bring up the map. All the maps are available at www.Michigan.gov/MICRC and then click on the Final and District Maps. Because these are large files, be patient about downloading. Printing them may take large format paper unless you adjust the scale.
More Money — On April 26, the MICRC appeared before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on General Government requesting a budget increase. Since the beginning of the MICRC’s operations in the fall of 2020, it has spent about $7.5 million. It has asked for an additional $1.6 million, mostly for legal fees to defend its lines. There are still two lawsuits awaiting action by the federal court in Grand Rapids, one brought by Republicans and another by African-American plaintiffs challenging the district lines around Detroit. At its April 28 meeting, the MICRC decided to ask the Legislative Auditor General to audit its books. The MICRC is down to 1.5 employees and waiting for legal advice on its status going forward.
SPECIAL AND LOCAL ELECTIONS
Special elections were held May 3 for four vacant Michigan House seats. The Democrats scored an upset win in a strongly Republican district near Grand Rapids when Democrat Carol Glanville was elected over Republican Robert Regan who had stated that he advised his three daughters “If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.” Additionally, he propagated various conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 presidential election and stated that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a hoax staffed by crisis actors. The Dems won one additional seat and the other two went to Republicans in safe districts. Once the new members are seated, the Democrats will have gained one seat, narrowing the GOP majority in the Michigan House to 57-53.
In local elections, there were 111 proposals to raise money for local projects or services, or approve tax renewals or increases. Most bond issues passed, the largest being one for Kalamazoo schools for $197.1 million and Lansing schools for $129.1 million. The City of Wyoming turned down a 1 percent city income tax for residents and ½ percent for nonresidents. There were two proposals rejecting marijuana businesses in the Village of Pentwater and Shelby Township, both in Oceana County.
April 19 marked the deadline for candidates to file their paperwork to run for most state political offices in Michigan. Running for Governor requires 15,000 valid voter petition signatures. Governor Gretchen Whitmer filed 30,000 signatures on March 17.
A total of ten candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for governor. On April 26, a super political action committee supporting Republican Tudor Dixon for governor filed a challenge over thousands of signatures submitted by the James Craig campaign. The allegation says about 7,100 signatures are from people not registered to vote and there are mistakes like the wrong county or municipality on the sheet. Another 172 signatures were cited as duplicates. Craig submitted 21,000 signatures.
Additionally, the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) challenged the petitions filed by Republicans James Craig, Tudor Dixon, and Perry Johnson. The MDP says Craig’s circulators participated in a "round-robin," where they passed around the petition sheets to sign different voter's names with different handwriting. For Dixon, the MDP alleged all of her signatures are invalid because the heading of the petition sheets includes the incorrect date on when the term for governor would end. The challenge to Dixon's signatures also says there were 25 signatures from dead individuals and that one of the individuals accused of fraud on the Craig campaign also circulated petitions for Dixon. On Johnson's signatures, the MDP complaint alleges he used six of the same eight canvassers Craig used, citing the potential for forgery on 343 sheets. Others were defective because of duplicates, incomplete signatures, or other errors on the petition sheet, the challenge says. The Michigan Republican Party called the challenges desperate.
At its meeting on May 2, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers composed of two Republicans and two Democrats made it clear that it intends to enforce the candidate petition requirements to the full extent of the law. The Board next meets on May 26 to consider the challenges and other business.
Voters Not Politician (VNP) representatives will be at the June 8 Lansing SERA meeting to answer questions and collect voter signatures for Promote the Vote, which has been endorsed by the SERA Coordinating Council. For people in the Lansing area who want to sign the Promote the Vote petition, have questions, or want to get involved circulating petitions, VNP is sponsoring some weekly meetings:
Outside the Lansing area people can go to the Voters Not Politicians website at www.votersnotpoliticians.com and then click on Events (Red box) link to find ways to participate.
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