Lansing Update: February 11, 2011

In This Week’s Lansing Update:

  1. Legislation to Eliminate Tax Credit for Working Poor Introduced
  2. Advocacy Priorities Released for 2011-12 Legislative Session
  3. Pro-Life Bills Introduced in New Legislative Session
  4. Governor Snyder to Present Executive Budget Proposal Next Week

Legislation to Eliminate Tax Credit for Working Poor Introduced

This week State Senator Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw) introduced legislation that would eliminate a state tax credit that helps to move low-income workers and their children out of poverty.

The legislation, Senate Bill 103, would eliminate the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, which was created in 2006 with wide bipartisan support. The credit allows a working individual who qualifies for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to claim 20 percent of that federal credit on their state tax return. The credit helps to offset payroll, property and sales taxes that disproportionately impact Michigan’s low-income workers.

Because of the cost of the credit to the state, some $340 million for the 2011 tax year, Republican legislators have called for its elimination to help balance Michigan’s $1.8 billion deficit for the 2011–12 fiscal year.

Michigan Catholic Conference has been a leading supporter of the credit for several legislative sessions as it does more to lift low-income workers and their children out of poverty than any other policy. The state EITC also helps to boost the economy as research shows 95 percent of the returns are spent in local communities, with 100 percent of the credit going to Michigan residents. Some twenty four other states and the District of Columbia offer a state credit that piggy-backs the federal credit, which was enacted in 1975 and referred to by President Ronald Reagan as the best “anti-poverty, pro-family” measure to come out of the United States Congress. No other state is looking to eliminate its EITC to help offset budget shortfalls.

Since the elimination of the credit was first proposed by the House majority in early January, MCC has undertaken a high profile public relations campaign in support of the credit, appearing on radio interviews and penning columns for statewide newspapers, as well as engaging in a strong lobbying effort in the House and Senate to preserve the credit.

SB 103 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it awaits a hearing.

Advocacy Priorities Released for 2011–12 Legislative Session

As it does at the dawn of each new legislative session, the Conference in late January released its advocacy priorities for the 96th Michigan Legislature.

Recognizing the significant challenges that accompany a $1.8 billion state budget deficit, MCC has announced that protecting the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and maintaining adequate funding levels for state programs that benefit Michigan’s destitute population will top its advocacy agenda for the 2011–2012 legislative session.

The priorities are released through FOCUS, the Conference’s periodic public policy publication. This session’s document can be read here. Also included in this year’s FOCUS is a “Who We Are/Our Core Values” insert, which can be accessed by clicking here.

Pro-Life Bills Introduced in New Legislative Session

Since the 2011–12 legislative session began last month several important pieces of pro-life legislation have been introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives and the State Senate.

In the House, State Representative Kevin Daley (R-Lum) has introduced a bill that would ban in Michigan the heinous practice of partial-birth abortion. While the United States Supreme Court found the 2007 federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act constitutional, former Governor Jennifer Granholm twice vetoed legislation that would ban the practice in the state. The legislation, House Bill 4109, has been referred to the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee where it awaits a hearing.

Also in the House legislation has been introduced that addresses abortion coverage in the state health care exchanges that will soon be created as part of last year’s federal health care reform legislation. House Bills 4143 and 4147, sponsored by Representative Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac) would prohibit abortion from being included in those state exchanges. The legislation has been referred to the House Health Policy Committee.

In the State Senate, Senator Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion) has introduced Senate Bill 51, legislation that would prohibit a researcher in Michigan from using any organs, tissue or cells taken from an aborted baby. The Senate Health Policy Committee has yet to schedule a hearing for the bill. Senate Bill 54, sponsored by Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), would require aborted children to be medically cremated, or buried if the parents request it. Any person who violates the law would face up to three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

The legislation was deemed necessary after an abortion clinic was spotted tossing the remains of aborted children into a trash receptacle. Most Reverend Earl Boyea [Link no longer available —Ed.], Bishop of Lansing, presided at a Funeral Mass for the 17 children last year at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Lansing, and the babies were buried at St. Joseph Cemetery, also in Lansing. Legislation similar to SB 54 passed the State Senate in December 2010 but, because the bill was introduced so late in the session, died before a hearing was held in the House of Representatives. The bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Governor Snyder to Present Executive Budget Proposal Next Week

On Thursday, February 17, Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his 2011–12 executive budget proposal to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, as well as the House Tax Policy Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Michigan is facing a $1.8 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that begins October 1.

Details of the governor’s budget proposal have been kept close to the vest, however, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley (R-Portland) stated this week that the administration would like to cut a considerable amount of funding from the Department of Corrections, which receives about twenty five percent of the state’s general fund spending. Throughout his campaign, and since his victory in November, Governor Snyder has spoken of his intent to “reinvent” and “reform” how state government is funded.

Considerable budget cuts to the state’s general fund are expected, especially after Lt. Gov. Calley this week told [Link no longer available —Ed.] a business gathering in Holland that the governor’s budget proposal will be like “dropping an atomic bomb on Lansing.” Those comments have indicated the budget proposal will be deep with spending cuts, which are of considerable concern to the Conference.

MCC advocates throughout the budget process for adequate funding to programs that benefit the state’s poor and vulnerable population. Those programs are found in the Departments of Human Services (DHS) and Community Health (DCH). In the DCH budget, MCC will advocate for appropriate funding for the state’s Medicaid program and reimbursement rates for those who accept Medicaid patients. In the DHS budget, MCC will primarily look to preserve funding for the state’s Family Independence Program (welfare assistance) and the Children’s Clothing Allowance, which helps children whose parents are on Medicaid purchase clothing for the school year.

Details of the governor’s proposal and MCC’s response will be included in a forthcoming edition of Lansing Update.