Tax increases won’t solve upcoming budget dilemma

Categories: News,Wakeman News

By state Rep. Rodney Wakeman of Saginaw Township

As we approach the halfway point of 2020, it has become clear the response to the coronavirus pandemic has had more of an impact than many thought. The Legislature has already authorized $150 million in spending to address health care capacity, lab testing, monitoring, infection control, and many other things.

The governor said at a recent press conference it’s the responsibility of the Legislature to craft and approve these expenditures and the state budget as a whole. I hope she understands it’s also the responsibility of the governor to work with the Legislature to remedy the issues brought on by a massive budget shortfall. The House and Senate recently held a revenue estimating conference that predicted a deficit totaling nearly $3 billion in the current fiscal year.

My colleagues and I are prepared to make tough decisions in the near future to ensure the state is able to balance its budget after addressing the costs of mitigating the coronavirus outbreak.

However, one thing I’m not prepared to do is raise taxes on hard-working families, individuals or businesses. Any attempt to recoup economic losses on the backs of those most severely affected will not have my support.

In the coming weeks and months, I expect to see various tax increase proposals introduced. I’ve heard talk of implementing a graduated income tax to compensate for losses. Not only would this fail to produce desired results, it would punish many small business owners that have already been severely hurt by the governor’s response to this crisis.

You may also hear calls for increased sales tax. A similar proposal to fix our roads and fund local governments was rejected in 2015 by a historic margin. If there’s no clear direction for funding, it’s irresponsible to ask citizens to pay more sales tax. The governor’s administration has not shown the transparency required to earn the trust of taxpayers, and after refusing to work with duly elected representatives, the Legislature is very unlikely to even consider a sales tax. Don’t forget, earlier this year the governor unilaterally placed billions of dollars on the state’s credit card well into the future for an inferior roads plan.

I will not support any attempt to raise the individual income tax. The last time a governor increased that rate, it never went back down as promised. That’s why I introduced HB 5337 earlier this year to finally eliminate that decade-old “temporary” tax.

I made a commitment when I ran for office to be a good steward of your tax dollars, and I am going to keep that promise. The Legislature will have some difficult choices to make in the next few months. The governor can make this much easier on everyone if she begins to take a sensible, consensus approach to safely reopening sectors of the economy.

The governor should not make this any harder than it has to be. Opening more sectors of the economy will increase state revenue and release undue hardship on countless Michiganders who know they can get back to work safely.

Many Saginaw County families and residents across Michigan have spoken up on their immediate needs and the governor refuses to act. I sure hope she’s not expecting those same people to pay for her months of unmitigated power and decision-making that has left so many without a voice.