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Michigan Taxpayers Alliance Updates: August 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

While you were sleeping...

Friends,

The state House and Senate worked on the 2008 state budget all night and into early this morning. Here is what they did:

The Senate, under Republican control, passed budget bills that would spend $167 million LESS than Governor Granholm’s proposed budget. This means that the Senate is moving in the right direction. But they have a long way to go considering that the Governor’s proposed budget relies on a $1.5 to $1.8 BILLION tax increase in order to be balanced.

Senate Republicans have a lot more cutting to do. Unfortunately, they increased spending in some areas that the Governor had proposed cutting. Like the $3.7 million dollars for prizes at horse races that the Governor had proposed cutting and Republicans restored. Hey, I like to bowl. Can I get tax dollar-paid prizes if I bowl a good game?

But that $3.7 million is not even a hiccup compared to what the Democrat–controlled state House was doing to your future while you slept. They passed budget bills that would spends hundreds of millions MORE of your money than even the Governor asked for!

House Democrats are on track to spend two billion more than the state expects to receive in taxes next year. Given the state constitution’s balanced budget requirement, they want a $2 billion tax hike on citizens! That amounts to taking approximately $300 more out of the pocket of each income tax-paying citizen. This means you, your spouse, your parents, your siblings and your neighbors. Imagine the impact on Michigan’s economy if every taxpaying citizen were suddenly made hundreds of dollars poorer.

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news. The budget process is not over, and it will take weeks before final decisions are made, so do call your Senator and House member.

Both the House and Senate have adjourned until next week. Sleep tight!

Leon Drolet
Michigan Taxpayers Alliance
www.mitaxpayers.org

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rumors, Race Horses, Revenues, Robos…and Recalls

Today is the day that Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon presented his proposed ‘deal’ addressing the 2008 state budget to Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.

The proposed deal has not been made public, but since I am at one with the Lansing rumor mill, here is what the deal supposedly is:

1. Bishop would agree with Democrats to allow a temporary hike in the state income tax and…
2. Both the House and Senate would place a proposal on the 2008 presidential ballot that would allow horse racing tracks to become more like full casinos (called racinos) and…
3. If voters approve of the racinos then…
4. The income tax hike will go away.

There would supposedly be significant cost-saving reforms to teacher health care and/or pensions included as part of the deal.

Good deal? First, there is absolutely no such thing as a temporary tax! A temporary tax is less likely to exist than Bigfoot. The U.S. income tax was supposed to be temporary when it was created to help pay for the Civil War. Michigan voters today are paying for a Detroit Metro Airport parking tax enacted to build an airport building that was paid for decades ago!

Oh, wait. Congress did actually eliminate a temporary tax just last year. It was a phone tax enacted in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish American War! It only took Congress 108 years to live up to their promise of the tax being “temporary”.

So, why can’t the state legislature just go ahead and allow racinos and skip the income tax hike altogether? They can’t. In 2004 voters amended the State Constitution to prohibit expansion of gambling in Michigan. So it would take a two-thirds vote of the legislature to place a constitutional amendment before voters.

Why do we need gimmicks like racinos to pass a balanced budget? Why not pass a 2008 budget that only spends money that the state legislature expects to have? I think Senator Mike Bishop wants to do exactly that. Problem is that too many members of his own Republican caucus are acting like RINOs right now (Republicans In Name Only), and prefer caving to taxspenders than sticking up for taxpayers.

Senator Bishop needs your help and the help of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. Contact your state senator by using the ‘find your representative’ feature on the MTA website at www.mitaxpayers.org.

The MTA is helping generate calls to senators starting tomorrow by sending thousands of automated phone calls (robo calls) out to taxpayers alerting them of the tax talk in Lansing. People receiving these calls have the option to “press one now” and they are automatically connected to their state senator’s office where they can leave a message or talk to their senator’s staff about tax increases.

Stay tuned. More news is coming tomorrow about the potential recall campaigns against tax-raising politicians.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Deal? Or No Deal?

Friends,

Yesterday, WJR 760 AM radio ran a story on their 6:00pm newscast reporting that state Senate and House leaders had agreed to a budget deal that included a significant tax hike.

Had the Senate Republican leadership capitulated to Democrats spending demands? A total surrender to the taxspenders? Alarmed, I called several Lansing newspaper reporters to ask if the report was true and, if so, what the devilish details were.

After talking to several media outlets, it appears that WJR probably missed the mark when they aired the story. It appears they based their report on a Detroit Free Press story by reporter Chris Cristoff which quoted Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop as saying a tax increase was inevitable given Governor Granholm’s unwillingness to support meaningful spending reductions. His comment was predictive, and was not meant to be interpreted as a declaration of some budget deal.

But what Senator Bishop said is also strategically incorrect. If Governor Granholm refuses to accept significant spending cuts, the Republican-controlled Senate can pass its own budget bills that do not require increased taxes. When the House refuses to pass these budget bills, and Granholm implements a partial government shut down in October, who will be blamed? Not the Senate! They passed a balanced budget and sent it to the Democrat-controlled House. Granholm and House Speaker Andy Dillon will be rightly blamed for shutting down government for the specific purpose of wanting (not needing) a massive tax increase.

This is basic strategy 101. The only difficulty is that Senator Mike Bishop would have to get his own GOP caucus to agree to a budget smaller than many would prefer. This is a defining moment for the GOP. Either they are the party of the taxpayers and reduced government or they are not. These are the times that try men’s souls…

What can you do? Now is an important time to call your state senator and let him or her know how you want to be represented. Also, place a call to Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and encourage him not to surrender, to keep fighting for spending reductions. Senator Bishop’s phone number is 517-373-2417. Calling by phone is more effective than email, but if you prefer you can email Bishop at senmbishop@senate.michigan.gov.

You can find your senator’s contact information by using the ‘Contact Your Representative’ feature on the MTA website at www.mitaxpayers.org.

Take a few minutes to call. Those that are lusting to confiscate what money is left in your pocket lobby legislators every day.

Leon Drolet
MI Taxpayers Alliance

Friday, August 10, 2007

The chess game continues...

Friends,

State lawmakers are not all idiots.

As further proof of the ingenuity of many Lansing politicians, just review how many new, creative ideas they have come up with to take more of your money just in the last few months: A new sales tax on services, a 3000% (not a typo) higher fee on garbage disposal, a new phone tax, a "restoration" of the income tax (increase tax by 15%), a "ticket tax" on sport and concert tickets, a new fee that electric and phone companies could choose to pay the state in exchange for guaranteed monopoly status in their industry, a "luxury" tax on elective services like limo rental and manicures.

The Michigan Taxpayers Alliance is getting some of the credit (or 'blame' in Lansing) for SO FAR stopping the taxes listed above. See state Capitol reporter Tim Skubick's column in today's Lansing State Journal here:

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007708100314

Skubick's column will run in The Macomb Daily and several other papers around the state this weekend.

As you can read in Skubick's column, these tax-hikers in Lansing can be creative in their scheming of how they might be able to take more of your money, but not face consequences in an election.

They already got away with creating the new Michigan Business Tax that replaces the old SBT. Hmm, somehow the new tax is expected to create a "one-time windfall" of $220 million more dollars for state Treasury this year than the old SBT would have.

And they are hungry for $1.5 billion more!

If only, ONLY they would take some of that creativity and intellect and apply it to spending cuts!

The chess game between the taxspenders and the MTA continues...

Leon Drolet
MI Taxpayers Alliance
www.mitaxpayers.org

Thursday, August 9, 2007

First Gentleman Daniel Mulhern Granholm staff among largest in Nation!

A Very Public Request to Governor Granholm

By Leon Drolet

Michigan is actually leading the nation in job growth in one small niche: The number of people employed on the staff of the gubernatorial “first spouse” has never been higher. Michigan Taxpayer Alliance research has revealed that Michigan’s First Gentleman Dan Granholm Mulhern has the third largest staff of any first spouse in the nation. Only California and Ohio provides their governor’s wives with more assistants – five and four staffers respectively.

Jennifer Granholm’s husband Dan Mulhern has three paid staffers, at least one of whom reportedly receives a very generous $115,000 salary and benefits package. In a state with a population more than twice Michigan’s, New York First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer ekes by with just two staffers. The spouse of the governor of Illinois has one staffer, as do those of Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota. The national average is 1.2 state employees per first spouse, brought down a bit by the fact that a few governors are single or divorced.

In Michigan, working for the governor’s spouse has become a growth industry. Former First Lady Michelle Engler had only one staffer for most of the 12 years her husband held office, according to John Truscott, who was Gov. John Engler’s spokesman.

Some have questioned why Michigan’s First Gentleman needs a larger staff than the first spouses of New York or Illinois. Mr. Mulhern has described his staff as dedicated, hard-working state employees who bring value to Michigan taxpayers, but the public has no solid information about what those staffers do, or how residents benefit from this expenditure of their tax dollars.

Under current law, the Governor’s office, Legislature and Supreme Court are specifically exempt from Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Nevertheless, the legislature will provide details of salaries paid to the aides of Senators and Representatives. Executive branch departments are not exempt from FOIA and are required to provide any inquiring citizen with records documenting the compensation and work product of any state employee.

Given these precedents, it’s not unreasonable for citizens to ask how their tax dollars are being used by an office that many would argue is an expensive luxury at a time when the First Gentleman’s wife is seeking to extract $1.5 billion in tax increases from already stressed households and businesses. Therefore, I have submitted a written request to Governor Granholm, asking that she disclose the following information:

• The total cost of the First Gentleman’s staff.
• How often these staff members showed up for work in Lansing.
• What official government activities they perform, including the nature of their work product.
• Who these staffers called during work hours on government phones.

As mentioned, Gov. Granholm is vigorously lobbying for a massive tax hike, claiming that further spending cuts will devastate vital government services. The least she can do is to disclose to citizens how she is spending the tax dollars already flowing to her, in particular funds spent on behalf of an individual who holds no Constitutional office and has no official governmental role or responsibilities.

~~~~~

Leon Drolet is the Executive Director of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to taxpayer education and advocacy for reduced state spending and a reduced overall tax burden.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

"I don't sign pledges"

The Michigan Taxpayer Promise was distributed to each Michigan legislator’s office Wednesday, Legislators sign the Promise to their constituents that they will NOT vote to raise taxes for the next five months, which affects the 2008 budget.

We will soon know which Lansing politicos are proud to tell voters where they stand.

But some GOP legislators have already been quoted in the media saying they oppose raising taxes in general, but they “don’t sign pledges”. Ok, they don’t sign pledges or commit how they will vote on future issues. Really? So these same legislators must not have filled out many candidate questionnaires when they ran for office. They know the what I am talking about, those endless questionnaires that come from the MI Optometric Association, the MI Townships Association, etc. These questionnaires ask very specific questions about how a candidate will vote. Candidates fill many of them out, sign and date them, and mail them back hoping for an endorsement or campaign contribution.

Some of these questionnaires are from ideological groups like Right to Life and the NRA. They want to know how candidates will vote on their issues. They want it signed. Then they deliver votes. Why not taxpayers?

Other promises made on questionnaires are made because a candidate wants money. I wonder how many of these legislators who “don’t sign pledges” signed the MI Beer and Wine Wholesalers questionnaire in which they pledged their support for a morally corrupt (but legal) monopoly alcohol distribution system. And then got a nice, fat campaign check. Or, how many signed the pledge to an anti-gambling PAC called ’23 is Enough’ two years ago that they would oppose a new Indian casino in west Michigan? I bet many did. Another check.

But tell their taxpayer constituents how they will vote on increasing their taxes? Oh, no…they can’t make a commitment to them. They don’t make promises. Nope. Not for them.