Plan created property tax flexibility for those impacted by COVID-19 shutdown, dam flooding
State Rep. James Lower, of Greenville, today criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for vetoing legislation that would have granted many Michigan homeowners and business owners more flexibility for 2020 summer property taxes.
“This legislation passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the Michigan House and overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate – because it’s the right thing to do for the people of our state. Gov. Whitmer’s rejection of this plan is another troubling sign that she is going it alone and refuses to work with the Legislature, even on legislation that had support from nearly every member.”
“The governor shut down businesses, caused many people to be laid off, and still has not fixed her broken unemployment system – but she won’t help those struggling to pay their property taxes. It doesn’t make sense, especially as she’s threatening to shut down our economy again. It’s completely unfair to struggling Michigan residents and job providers,” said Lower, who sponsored House Bills 5761 and 5810.
House Bill 5761 allowed a business or residential property owner who isn’t able to pay summer property taxes for this year to have those taxes deferred if they offer an affidavit stating they have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or recent flooding caused by dam failures – both of which have led to state of emergency declarations.
Related legislation, HB 5810, provided temporary cash flow assistance for local governments facing shortfalls because of late tax payments. Property tax payments make up a pivotal source of revenue for communities and are used to fund services residents rely on.
“These proposals respected the immense financial pressure people have experienced throughout the state, while also recognizing the importance this revenue has for our local communities and their governments. They’re under pressure too as they look to set budgets and fund services,” Lower said. “The governor continues to gamble on a federal government she openly feels is floundering by hoping for more stimulus money to fix shortfalls – instead of looking for real, practical solutions like the ones my plan provided. Losing that kind of gamble means our state is in a dramatically difficult position with little to no time to formulate a fix. Michigan loses. Our communities lose. Our residents lose.”
In response to the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Whitmer chose to label businesses as essential or non-essential, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Issues with the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency have also made it difficult for out-of-work people filing claims to obtain money to pay bills and support their families.
In addition to public health concerns related to the pandemic, breaches in the Edenville and Sanford Dams along the Tittabawassee River on May 19 due to heavy rain forced the evacuations of more than 10,000 Midland County residents. The Federal Emergency Management Agency labeled the flooding as a 500-year event which, according to the state, caused an estimated $175 million in damage and damaged or destroyed more than 2,500 homes, businesses and nonprofits in Midland County alone.
Arenac, Gladwin, Iosco and Saginaw counties also were put under a state of emergency due to the flooding, in addition to the city and county of Midland.