Lansing Republicans are toasting the close of what was certainly a banner year for them. Lawmakers were able to blast through a wish list that had eluded them for years.
They’re high-fiving each other for having made reforms to local and municipal revenue sharing, business tax cuts, reforming K-12 education and teacher tenure, cutting the number of weeks the unemployed can collect benefits and limiting the number of months families can receive public assistance. They’ve made what some call Draconian changes to the state’s Workers’ Compensation system, and passed legislation to tax pensions.
It was a long list of pent-up wishes conservatives had wanted for years — even decades. What in the world is left for them to do?
Well, the conservative Mackinac Center’s “Michigan Capital Confidential” newsletter has a few ideas.
In today’s edition, the Center ticks off the items still left undone. Many of the initiatives have enough steam to be reintroduced next year. Among them: the repeal of prevailing wage laws, and what the Center calls “stealth unionization.” The “right to teach” bill was also tabled. It would have stopped school districts from making agreements with the Michigan Education Association to require union membership as a condition of employment. The Center suggests that while there was some support for the ideology, the bill was a poorly written attempt at political payback, and may not have enough legs to be re-introduced in 2012.
Certainly for the upcoming year, workers and employers alike will be waiting to see whose resolutions stick, and whose fall by the wayside like a “forgotten by April” gym membership.
A recently enacted bill that phases out the tax exemption for public employee pensions, and whether it violates the Michigan and U.S. constitutions, is at issue in a case that the Michigan Supreme Court will hear on Sept. 7.
The Court will hear In Re Request for an Advisory Opinion Regarding Constitutionality of 2011 PA 38 at the request of Gov. Rick Snyder, who asked the Court to rule before Oct. 1, the earliest date that any of the act’s provisions could take effect.
Opponents of the law say that it violates the Michigan Constitution because it reduces the pension income that public sector retirees have already earned. The bill’s supporters say that the Constitution does not create a permanent public pension tax exemption and that the bill is consistent with the Legislature’s power to tax.
Oral arguments will begin at 10 a.m. at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing.
Who wants to wait for a proper case to matriculate through the court system? Not Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Senate They want the Supreme Court to opine on the constitutionality of the pension tax, which exempts people born before 1946 [Saginaw News/Mlive]:
With no debate and a quick voice vote, the Senate this morning approved a resolution formally asking the Michigan Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the tax bill it approved last month. Specifically: taxing public pensions, taxing retirement differently according to age and eliminating the personal deduction for those above a certain income.
Eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and replacing the revenue with a host of income tax changes will cost certain pensioners born after 1945 some $340 million in new taxes. About a quarter of that is estimated to come from the pensions of public employees.
Of course, if the court does agree to hear the issue and strikes the new tax, one would find it highly unlikely that the Legislature could replace the tax before it is supposed to go into effect on January 1 of a major election year.