Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > Feb. 10, 2023 | This Week in Government: House Dems Get Help from GOP Rep. to Pass Tax Cut Plan

Feb. 10, 2023 | This Week in Government: House Dems Get Help from GOP Rep. to Pass Tax Cut Plan

February 10, 2023
Detroit Regional Chamber Presents This Week in Government, powered by Gongwer, Michigan's home for Policy and Politics news since 1906

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

House Dems Get Help from GOP Rep. to Pass Tax Cut Plan

The House narrowly passed a broad tax cut bill in a brutally fast, narrow vote on Thursday that left Republicans shouting on the floor of the chamber after one of their members voted with the majority to give the legislation the last vote it needed.

HB 4001 passed 56-53. The bill relaxes taxes on retirement income while fully exempting public safety officials from taxes on retirement income, expands the Earned Income Tax Credit to 30% of the federal credit, provides $180 to tax filers, and shifts funding to economic development funds.

The tax changes reverse moves made under Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder. Democrats have been calling for more than a decade to reverse the retirement and EITC tax changes made under the GOP administration.

Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden) crossed over party lines to vote with Democrats, giving the majority a passing vote after Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City) refused to go along with his caucus. Wegela voted no, even after considerable pressure was placed on him to vote yes by Democratic leadership, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s administration.

After invoking a Call of the House, essentially a lockdown of the House floor preventing members from leaving, Democrats called for a vote on the legislation.

House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) moved to the previous question, avoiding debate on the bill as Republicans yelled they wanted to be allowed to speak. Most recently, Republicans moved to the previous question during the debate on the Medicaid work requirement in 2018, leaving the minority Democrats furious.

Once the required votes for passage were in, Democrats closed the board, locking in the votes, forcing most Republicans to signal their vote to Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Laurie Pohutsky and limiting their ability to pressure Mueller.

At first, the bill had 57 yes votes, but Rep. Nancy De Boer (R-Holland) verbally changed her vote from a yes to a no.

The scene was so loud and chaotic that Clerk Rich Brown could be heard on the live stream saying to Pohutsky, “I can’t hear,” several times as they attempted to move through the 14 Republicans who had not yet voted. While the House was in session for five hours Thursday waiting to get the votes, the whole process to pass the bill took about five minutes.

When the board closed, many GOP members of the House were still shouting from their seats about being denied the opportunity to speak against the bill on the floor.

“There’s no conversation. There’s no discussion. There’s no transparency. Nothing,” Minority Floor Leader Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Township) said after the bill passed.

Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) called the bill’s passage a bipartisan effort.

“No secrets or surprises,” Tate said. “Would I have liked more of my Republican colleagues to be on board with it? Absolutely. … I’ll just leave it at ‘They know what they did.’ We had to move forward. Michigan residents expect us to actually get things done.”

Aiyash also brushed aside Republicans’ complaints.

“Democrats were elected in the House and in the Senate to govern on a mandate to fight for working people and if my Republican counterparts are frustrated at the fact that we just passed the once in a generation Working Families Tax Credit that’ll put thousands of dollars in the pockets of the working poor across the state, then I don’t know what to tell them,” he said. “If they had great ideas to solve this issue, then we were going to welcome that. But instead, the conversation was about pretending that we were trying to increase taxes, and that is simply not the case.”

As passed by the House, HB 4001 would provide $180 rebate checks to every tax filer in the state by shifting $800 million in Corporate Income Tax revenue from the 2021-22 fiscal year to a new Michigan Taxpayer Rebate Fund to be distributed by the Department of Treasury. The legislation also would cut taxes for retirees and low-income earners and provides a mechanism to move Corporate Income Tax revenue directly to the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund.

By cutting $800 million worth of rebate checks, the state also could avoid triggering a potential income tax rollback written into a 2015 law, which was the primary objection of the Republican Caucus.

The rebates and income tax rate rollback are still an open question. If the Senate does not grant immediate effect for the bill, the rebate mechanism will not be implemented.

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) said on Wednesday that no Republican would vote for the bill as long as it included pieces to circumvent a potential income tax rollback trigger.

“They’re stripping away an income tax cut for every Michigander in exchange for $1.5 billion in corporate subsidies over the next three years,” Posthumus said.

Under HB 4001, beginning in the 2022-23 fiscal year through the 2024-25 fiscal year, if Corporate Income Tax revenue exceeds $1.2 billion, up to $500 million would be deposited into the SOAR Fund; $50 million into the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund; and $50 million into a Revitalization and Placemaking Fund.

Every fiscal year, beginning in 2025-26, $50 million would continue to be deposited into the housing fund while the other pieces would expire.

Wegela had already voted against legislation that included SOAR funding this term. Last month, he voted against the $1.1 billion supplemental because it included $350 million for corporations.

Wegela did not budge from his position on SOAR funding and refused to support the bill.

“The part I didn’t like was the diversion of General Fund dollars or the diversion of the Corporate Income Tax revenue for funding years ’24, ’25 and ’26 at a rate of up to $500 million a year, up to $1.5 billion potentially in totality,” he said. “I view it as a corporate handout. What we did last week, what we did this week, is one of the largest tax cuts. A lot of those things I support, but I think doing both of those things at one time is fiscally irresponsible.”

Wegela said he thought the better way to attract business to Michigan was to invest money into water, infrastructure, and schools.

“This is my one really passionate, unmovable issue,” Wegela said. “You’ll see me voting with the caucus probably 95% of the time, and I think in general we’re united in a lot of ways, but I personally believe that there needs to be space for people to vote their conscience.”

Wegela’s vote against the legislation meant House Democrats needed one Republican to vote with them, and they found that vote with Mueller.

The Republican caucus didn’t seem to be aware that Mueller would vote to support the bill Thursday afternoon.

“I assumed that they were going to be putting a lot of pressure on a lot of members,” Posthumus said. “They were calling several of our members late into last night to offer them all sorts of goodies to get them to switch.”

Posthumus said he didn’t know what made Mueller change his mind, and Aiyash deferred the question to Mueller.

“We know that there was an urgency to provide relief for working people quickly,” Aiyash said. “I’ve always known … him to be a reasonable guy, and I’m glad we were able to get it over the finish line. This is a body that has space for differing views, and we welcome all of them. We just got to get to 56.”

Mueller did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

The Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative nonprofit, criticized Mueller’s vote in a statement on Thursday.

“Republican representative Mike Mueller voted to throw everyday Michiganders under the bus, voting with House Democrats and Gretchen Whitmer to raise taxes on all working Michigan families and to redistribute their hard-earned money in handouts big corporations,” the statement said. “To say we are disappointed is an understatement. The Michigan Freedom Fund sees this as a betrayal by Rep. Mueller – a betrayal of the voters in his district and the state at large.”

Tate said he was appreciative of Mueller.

HB 4001 also reconciles the House and the Senate approaches to the timetable for relaxing the taxation of retirement benefits. The House had a four-year phase-in. The Senate initially had the same but later changed their bill to make the reduction immediate. The bill also would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to 30% of the federal credit beginning with the 2023 tax year while allowing taxpayers to claim an additional one-time credit worth 24% of the federal EITC in the 2022 tax year.

Now that the bill has been passed by the House, it will go to the Senate for approval.

Several conservative organizations criticized the bill that was passed on Thursday.

Annie Patnaude, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, called the legislation a “bait-and-switch” plan.

“One-time inflation relief checks are a flimsy apology that show just how out-of-touch Gov. Whitmer is with working families – $180 doesn’t even cover a week’s worth of groceries,” she said in a statement. “Raising taxes on working Michiganders by $700 million to free up money for company-specific sweetheart deals doubles down on the economic challenges our state faces.”

Democrats criticized the push from the GOP to reduce the income tax rate, saying it would help high earners more than lower-income workers.

“The proposed GOP ‘plan’ would benefit the wealthiest people in our state,” Pohutsky said on Twitter. “People earning $30,000-$36,000 would only get $68 while people like Betsy DeVos would get $450,000. @MIHouseDems work for every Michigander. Not just the millionaires.”

The National Federation of Independent Business – Michigan criticized the legislation.

“With this bill, Gov. Whitmer and the legislative majority chose to prevent an income tax reduction that would have resulted in a tax cut for more that 60% of small businesses in Michigan,” said a statement from Amanda Fisher, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “To add injury to insult, HB 4001 gives yearly handouts to large corporations, while doing nothing to help small businesses who are struggling to survive from government shutdowns, rising inflation and supply chain issues.”

Aiyash said that under the Democratic plan, all Michigan residents will be receiving more money.

“Every single Michigander will get 180 bucks back into their pockets, which is far more than what they would have received if the Republican tax plan was going to be put into place,” he said. “The reality is that Democrats delivered on a promise that we have made for working people, and we are proud of that, and we will continue the work of fighting for economic justice across the state.”

Senate GOP Adjourns to Delay Tax Vote; i.e. Change Could Be On Table

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks did not rule out a change to chamber rules governing votes on immediate effect following the minority Republicans’ surprise adjournment of session Thursday while Democrats were still in caucus discussing a pending tax cut and economic development bill.

Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), speaking to reporters following session, would not specifically say she was against changing Senate rules on requiring a roll call vote to determine the two-thirds support needed to give bills immediate effect. The House uses a voice vote system where the presiding officer determines if immediate effect is granted. The House system allows the majority to give any bill they want immediate effect.

“There’s going to be a lot of conversation about how we proceed,” Brinks said. “I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to do next. We are going to have conversations about what is an appropriate response. There will be a response.”

Brinks’ comments came after Senate Republicans delayed action on a major Democratic majority negotiated tax cut package until next week by moving to adjourn while Senate Democrats were in caucus.

The Senate returns at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

As is the case in the House, a majority in the Senate could technically change the chamber’s rules to allow immediate effect to be gaveled through.

Such a move could open the door to it being used against the Democrats in the future whenever they do not hold the majority, removing a significant guardrail the minority party has in slowing or preventing the enactment of legislation with which it disagrees.

Senate Republicans and Democrats both went into caucus Thursday afternoon following the narrow passage of HB 4001 in the House by a 56-53 vote (see separate story). Republicans emerged from caucus and, while Democrats were still in caucus and without any of their members or Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II around to preside over the chamber, moved to adjourn to delay voting on the package.

Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), the minority floor leader, was without warning recognized by Sen. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe), who serves as associate president pro tempore and had stepped up to preside over the chamber.

The motion to adjourn, with no Democrats on the floor, was unanimously approved, and session was adjourned before Democrats were even aware of what had transpired.

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) defended his caucus’ actions in a statement after the chamber adjourned.

“Democrats took it upon themselves to carry out the bidding of Gov. Whitmer to raise taxes on every Michigander without committee hearings, without debate, without negotiations, and without Republican input,” Nesbitt said. “To make matters worse, the disrespect that was shown to House Republicans this afternoon by locking them in and denying the opportunity to debate such a consequential vote was an insult to this institution.”

Nesbitt concluded by saying his hope is that members can come back to session, “hit the reset button, and legislate through a more transparent process.”

This was not how Brinks saw the move by Senate Republicans.

“Apparently they were too afraid of voting on a tough bill for them and they decided to walk away and not do their job instead of stay here and do what they were elected to do,” Brinks said.

Brinks later Thursday on Twitter further hinted at action in response to the move by Republicans by responding to a reporter’s tweet about her earlier comments by saying: “Lots of ‘finding out’ about to happen,” a reference to the phrase, “f*** around and find out.”

When asked about the lack of debate that prompted loud objections from House Republicans prior to that chamber’s vote on HB 4001 and what impact that could have in the upper chamber, Brinks said the discourse tends to be more civil in the Senate.

“I’m certainly hopeful that we can maintain some of the decorum of the chamber,” Brinks said. “This does not bode well for that conversation, so I will be having conversations with the leadership on the Republican side, and we’ll see where we land.”

Parliamentary moves such as what occurred Thursday to delay a final vote are not without precedent.

Last session, when Democrats were in the minority, their floor leader called for adjournment during votes on voter identification legislation Republicans were pushing through. Confusion at that time among Republicans allowed the Democrats to succeed because, on the roll call vote to decide adjournment, two Republicans errantly voted to adjourn. It delayed passage by a single day, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer later vetoed the bills in question (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Oct. 6, 2021).

In 2010, Whitmer, then serving in the Senate in the minority, made a successful motion to adjourn as well as then-Lt. Gov. John Cherry Jr. gaveled the motion through before Republicans realized what was happening.

ELCRA Expansion Closer to Becoming Law with Senate Panel Action

The state’s lone openly gay senator said he was overwhelmed Thursday after a Senate panel reported his legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a move advocates have been pushing for decades.

The Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee voted 5-1 with one abstention to report SB 4 after a second hearing in as many weeks, highlighted mostly by testimony supporting the changes in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. It was the first hurdle in what is expected to be a march towards passage of a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, which supporters and LGBTQ advocates have long called overdue.

All committee Democrats voted in favor of SB 4, with Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township) abstaining and Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) voting no.

Runestad offered an amendment prior to the bill being reported that he said would “strike that balance between protecting religious conscientious and also protecting against discrimination.”

The amendment from Runestad failed 2-5 along party lines.

“I am really overwhelmed because it feels like we’re running through the tape here,” Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) told reporters following the vote. “But there’s 50 years of advocates that we’re taking with us, have passed the baton from person to person to person over the course of decades to get us all here in this moment, and that hits me very heavily.”

Moss said many LGBTQ individuals have been subjected to discrimination over the past decades, fired, or denied housing due to a lack of protections under the law. He pointed to testimony in the committee the past two weeks showing that discrimination does happen.

“That’s decades of people who have not been able to live a true and complete life here in Michigan,” Moss said. “To give the LGBTQ community this chance to thrive here is good for all of us, so I’m just heartened by the vote.”

The senator said he expects SB 4 to move quickly and get to the governor’s desk. He called the proposed changes a win for all residents.

“What this signals to those people is they don’t have to suffer in silence, in the shadows, anymore, that when they face a wrong there’s a path to right it,” Moss said.

Under the bill, the ELCRA would expand protections against discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and public services. It would also provide protections in educational facilities, housing, and real estate. Court rulings last year determined the act’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Thursday’s committee hearing was split between testimony from business leaders staunchly in support and multiple individuals and groups opposed citing the possibility of legal repercussions and what they called potential discrimination against those holding deeply held religious beliefs.

Business groups broadly support the expansion. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Rapids Chamber, the Lansing Chamber, and ABC of Michigan all support the bill.

“The bill before you today is not a difficult request: it’s good business and best practice that Michigan businesses of all stripes already follow,” Brad Williams, vice president of government relations with the Detroit Regional Chamber, said.

Dow North America President Louis Vega told the committee Dow has had a long history of inclusion and utilizing the talents of a diverse workforce. He referenced multiple women in skilled positions who made a huge impact decades ago.

“Our internal policies have helped us to build a robust talent pipeline, but these policies unfortunately do not extend beyond our fence line,” Vega said. “It’s time for that to change. We believe all Michiganders should all be guaranteed the same fundamental rights whether they are in the workplace or in the community.”

Michigan Realtors President-elect Sandi Smith told the committee the issue is personal to her as a member of the LGBTQ community. She said not long ago, she would use initials for people’s names on documents for offers on homes. This was a protection against someone seeing that an LGBTQ couple may be seeking to buy a home and having their offer rejected.

“Why should a couple not be able to purchase the home of their dreams because their first names revealed that they were a same-sex couple?” Smith said.

Opposing the bill as introduced was William Wagner, a distinguished professor emeritus at Cooley Law School.

Wagner urged the committee to add language in the bill to include protections for persons with strongly held religious beliefs.

“Let’s do it in a way that protects all people, including people that have maybe a religious orientation or they have an identity that’s founded and grounded in their religious identity as opposed to some other way,” Wagner said.

Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy and advocacy with the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the group was opposed to the bill as introduced.

“Let’s avoid what we believe will take place if this legislation is signed into law without religious protections, that more religious or nonprofit groups will be taken into state court and possibly held liable because of their sincerely held beliefs about marriage,” Hickson said.

He also told committee members the states with such laws on the books have religious protections included.

Citizens for Traditional Values President Eileen McNeil was also opposed, echoing the religious grounds of others.

“We want to make sure no one ends up being discriminated against,” McNeil said. “I think the fear is that those who identify with deeply held religious convictions and the expression of those convictions would then be end up being discriminated against.”

She said businesses try and be inclusive but that it is not a reason to create a law that “sets up a different class of people” and could lead to unintended consequences.

“I don’t think we need more government action, forcing businesses and citizens of faith of all backgrounds, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, to make a terrible choice to act against their own constitutionally protected consciences and their sincerely held religious identity, or they’re going to face the full force the state’s governmental and regulatory power and battles, legal battles,” McNeil said.

Moss said religion is already a protected class under ELCRA. He said he gets frustrated by arguments claiming there to be a conflict between the LGBTQ community and religious people. He added that there is no conflict between his religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

Few committee hearings have ever been held on providing LGBTQ protections in the act, one of the earliest being in 1983. Before this month’s hearings, the most recent times similar legislation was subject to a hearing were in 2009 and 2014. In 2009, Democrats controlled the House and the governor’s office.

Advocates for the LGBTQ community have been pushing for expanding the ELCRA since the initial hearings on the act in 1973, previously to no avail.

Democratic lawmakers have taken up the fight increasingly for more than a decade but have never seen traction with Republican majorities in the Legislature. There have been a small number of GOP members that have backed various bills and resolutions in previous sessions.

Groups supportive of the changes expressed their excitement following the hearing to reporters at the prospect of the bill being signed into law soon.

Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott told reporters the bill would be good for business and help the state retain skilled workers in all sectors, and benefit everyone.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson called the progress being made on the legislation “nothing short of remarkable.”

Data on the Human Rights Campaign’s website showed as of 2022, a total of 22 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Michigan is one of six states that prohibit such discrimination against public employees.

“Michigan is not going to be one of them for very much longer,” Robinson said.

Whitmer Budget Focuses Surplus into K-12, Economic Development

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, no longer encumbered by a Republican majority in the Legislature preventing the use of what is now an unheard of $9 billion surplus, proposed a 2023-24 fiscal year budget Wednesday that pumps most of those billions into programs for which Democrats have long clamored for major investment.

While seemingly every area funded by state government other than cyber charter schools saw significant increases under the governor’s proposal, much of the $9 billion surplus was concentrated into K-12 schools and economic development efforts.

When combined with multiple proposed supplemental appropriations bills for the 2021-22 fiscal year that ended Sep. 30, 2022, and the 2022-23 current fiscal year, Whitmer’s budget, if enacted as introduced, would reduce the $9 billion surplus to $250 million. The various budget proposals Whitmer submitted to the Legislature also would expend all remaining funds the state received under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

Not all of the $9 billion surplus would be spent through appropriations. There would be $1.1 billion put into “rainy day” funds, $900 million to a new School Aid Budget Stabilization Fund, and $200 million into the regular BSF plus $500 million to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System reserve fund. Another $1.7 billion would go to taxpayers through the $180 rebate, expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and rollback in the taxation of retirement income. And several of the proposed appropriations would be one-time in nature and not built into the base of the budget.

There also were three new tax breaks: $200 million to provide a temporary credit to encourage businesses working in “clean manufacturing and industrial decarbonization” to locate in Michigan, $48.4 million for a temporary sales and use tax exemption on the purchase of electric vehicles and a child care educator tax credit costing $24 million.

Nonetheless, the budget, weighing in at $79.4 billion ($14.8 billion General Fund, $19 billion School Aid Fund), contains a long list of long-sought Democratic priorities that now stand a real chance given Democratic control of the Legislature. It represents a 4.8% increase from the current year but a 2.9% decrease in spending out of the General Fund.

Among the groups across the spectrum that rely heavily on the state budget, words like “celebrate” and “applaud” were common reactions. Whitmer, speaking to a joint meeting of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, said she built the budget recommendation around deploying state resources to reduce costs for everyday residents bitten by inflation.

“Our number one concern for Michiganders across our state right now is costs,” she said. “There’s a lot of exciting aspects to this budget and a huge opportunity in front of us all. The good news is that we’ve got momentum, and we’ve built a foundation from which to take Michigan to the next level.”

Republicans, who had hoped last year to see Whitmer defeated for reelection and the surplus instead put toward cutting taxes, voiced dismay at the new spending in the budget.

“This is a lot of money,” said Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport), minority vice chair of House Appropriations.

“A budget that hijacks this surplus to grow government instead of returning money to the taxpayers it belongs to is simply out-of-touch,” said Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon), the Senate Appropriations minority vice chair.

Among the major expenditures of surplus revenues that touch long-time Democratic priorities:

  • $724.4 million for literacy grants and coaches, math intervention programs, tutoring, and other measures designed to address learning loss during the pandemic.
  • A $614 million increase for basic school aid operations through the foundation allowance.
  • $500 million annually to the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund that would have otherwise gone to the General Fund, plus a still-to-be-issued 2021-22 fiscal year supplemental request making a one-time appropriation of $800 million to the SOAR fund.
  • $500 million for school infrastructure.
  • $350 million General Fund to reserve for federal matching fund opportunities.
  • $300 million to address health and safety issues in schools.
  • $280.5 million for water infrastructure ($30.5 million General Fund, the remainder from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act).
  • $244 million to expand the Great Start Readiness Program.
  • $225.8 million General Fund to replace lead service lines.
  • $210.1 million ($74.5 million General Fund) to raise wages for direct care workers by $1.50 per hour.
  • $200 million General Fund for the Michigan Regional Empowerment Program, a new competitive grant program to “implement transformative regional economic development projects.”
  • $200 million General Fund more for the Michigan Bridge Bundling initiative to fund the replacement of 30 more state and local bridges.
  • $160 million General Fund to provide universal free breakfasts and lunches at K-12 public schools (total funding would be $910.8 million when including federal funds for school meals).
  • $150 million General Fund to attract a Michigan-based insulin manufacturer.
  • $141.3 million to assist public universities with infrastructure needs.
  • $140 million in federal ARPA funds to temporarily expand the Michigan Reconnect program to students 21 and older.
  • $135 million in ARPA funds for a Michigan Main Street Initiative designed to “start, grow and expand small and microbusinesses.”

The budget proposal “shows true commitment to improving outcomes for Michiganders and their families – especially those who have struggled to make ends meet,” said Monique Stanton, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Whitmer and Budget Director Chris Harkins emphasized the one-time nature of many of these proposals when asked about the sustainability of the budget proposal.

“In the last four years we’ve really put our fiscal house in order paying down $14 billion of debt, amassing a record rainy day fund and getting our credit rating upgraded in the process. That is why we’re in a position to make investments that were long overdue,” Whitmer said. “It’s really pretty remarkable. And that’s really important as we think about immediate investments, long-term investments. All those things come into play in determining how far we can go or not go. And so I think that’s why it’s important to highlight that we’ve been really, really shrewd about the budgets that we’ve built and the decisions that we’ve made.”

On the state having $250 million remaining on its balance sheet at the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year under the Whitmer budget, Harkins said the 2024-25 fiscal year looks poised for revenue growth.

“We leave some on the balance sheet and we have a strong balance sheet as we look to ’25 we see ourselves still balance and we see ongoing revenue as well to make sure we’re strong in the future,” he said. “We feel very confident that what’s been proposed is a sustainable plan going forward.”

Top administration officials are still Sphinx-like regarding whether the various budget measures unveiled Wednesday would prevent a rollback in the income tax rate required under PA 180 of 2015 should General Fund revenue growth outpace inflation plus some economic growth.

The language in HB 4001 for the $180 rebate to income tax filers appears designed to avoid an income tax rollback because it would retroactively divert $800 million in income tax revenues that otherwise would have gone to the General Fund to a new fund that would pay for the rebates.

“I think it’s still too early to say what the final determination will be with the (CAFR) for when it’s published, hopefully by mid-March,” Harkins said.

Canadian Consulate: Gordie Howe Bridge in Service at End of 2024

A trade commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada stationed in Detroit said Thursday that the Gordie Howe International Bridge is expected to be in service by the end of 2024.

Anne Cascadden with the Canadian consulate presented a brief update on the bridge, its progress, and what it hopes to do for continued Canadian-U.S. relations and particularly Windsor-Detroit trade capabilities during a forum hosted Thursday by the Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.

The overarching topic of discussion at the forum was the Michigan-Ontario supply chain, with Cascadden giving updates on the state of trade between the U.S. state and Canada’s most populace province.

Additional speakers included Steven Melnyk, professor of Supply Chain and Operations Management with MSU, discussing significant challenges now facing supply chain managers; Michael Johnston, executive vice president of Government Affairs and Workforce Development with the Michigan Manufacturers Association, discussing challenges and opportunities they face in the new supply chain climate; and David Woodruff, assistant vice president and head of U.S. Public and Government Affairs with the Canadian National rail company, discussing the future of transportation in the supply chain.

Of note was Cascadden’s overview of the ongoing friendly and vital trade relationship between the U.S. and its neighbor to the north, extolling the fact that millions of stateside jobs depend on investment and trade with Canada.

Her comments on the importance of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project also provided an update toward its fruition.

“The Michigan Ontario trade relationship is predicated on access and to facilitate existing and emerging opportunities, I am pleased to report that construction of the new border crossing is moving along and the bridge will open by the very end of 2024,” she said. “It did not slow down during COVID. If you’re in Detroit, take the time to go Downriver and see what’s going on. It’s just outstanding and you can just see in action the advancement.”

Cascadden further stated that nearly 33% of all U.S-Canada surface trade occurs on the I-75 corridor at the Detroit-Windsor gateway and that the new bridge crossing was considered a vital new link with three lanes in each direction and large new ports of entry on each side, calling them state of the art.

“For the first time we will have a crossing that will provide that direct highway connection of the I-75 to 401 freeway. Businesses need a reliable and predictable border crossing to remain competitive and to make long term investment decisions,” she said. “And the new bridge will make it faster, simpler and safer for both people to travel and the goods to flow between Canada and the U.S. The project addresses the regional transportation need for redundancy, capacity system connectivity and improved border processing.”

With about 7,100 trucks crossing the Detroit-Windsor corridor daily, handling nearly 25% of all U.S.-Canadian trade, Cascadden said the bridge will facilitate more efficient cross-border trade and make the Great Lakes region more competitive in the process.

She added that 447 Canadian-owned businesses employ 31,650 Michigan workers and that some companies are aiding the U.S. transition to electric vehicles.

The Ontario-based Magna International invested $70.1 million in St. Clair to build complex battery enclosures for a General Motors electric Hummer, which in March 2022 projected 300 new jobs over five years. Magna also invested $35.4 million to expand seat manufacturing in Highland Park, aiming to create 480 jobs in Michigan.

She also extolled that Michigan exports $21.7 billion in goods to Canada annually, most of which comes from the transportation industry at 49% of total goods, and that the state also imports $37.9 billion in goods from Canada annually. The largest among those imports are also from the transportation industry at a rate of 40%.

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