Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Senate Republican Tax Day Stunt : "Don't Let Us Do That Again!"

In an attempt to save themselves from themselves with legislation rushed to the floor just in time to try to catch those Tax Day headlines, the Senate Republicans tried and failed yesterday to amend our Constitution to make it harder for future legislators to extend taxes to services.

You have to ask - if Senate Republicans have such wonderful and popular ideas, why do they have to try to pass their legislation in 30 minutes or less? Senator Prusi nails 'em.

The Constitution is our guiding document, and continually in my service in the Legislature, there have been references to the Constitution. Now you want to take and amend in a significant way our guiding documents, and you want to do it with less than 20 minutes or a half-hour heads-up on this issue. I think that is monumentally unfair, I believe that this is a politically-motivated ploy to get a headline on this April 15 tax day.

One year ago, the Senate Republicans had as part of their plan an expansion to the sales tax on the services performed in this state. You spent the last entire year running away from that plan, but that was part of what your thinking was a year ago as we wrestled with significant budget problems here in the state of Michigan. That service tax which was passed and given immediate effect last year was done so with Senate Republican votes. Now all of a sudden, you want to handcuff the Legislature into the supermajority scheme on a significant portion of what we were going to use to balance the state budget at some point in the future.

I find it ironic that you want to insert into our guiding document this paragraph that is big, nebulous, and really has had no opportunity to be studied or analyzed by our fiscal agencies, by Treasury, our attorneys, or anyone just so you can garner a headline here on Tax Day. I find that disturbing, and for that reason, among others, one of which being should not it be printed or reproduced in five days. We barely got five minutes with this, folks.

I think that is a sad commentary on how we are running this process, and I would ask my colleagues to join me in voting “no” on this.

So did Switalski.

Why would a joint resolution as important as this, just introduced 10 minutes ago, be left off the agenda, discharged to the floor with no committee hearings, and run all the way through General Orders and onto Third Reading in a total of 15 minutes? Are we that cavalier about our Constitution?

The establishment of a two-thirds supermajority should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. It is a limit on the will of the majority. This two-thirds amendment to the Constitution would mean that majority rules on tax policy. I am appalled that my colleagues would take such drastic action in 15 minutes on a resolution whose ink isn’t even dry.

Simple - it was a stunt, just like the House Republican stunt on Monday. Republicans don't have any valid ideas that can stand the scrutiny of the light of day, so they have to pull tricks like this to get media attention and please the people who control their party.

As Prusi pointed out, this one had quite the touch of irony, seeing as how the Senate Republicans were the ones responsible for the now-repealed tax on services in the first place. Dillon had warned them for weeks before the shutdown that the lower the income rate, the more services would be taxed...

But, one of my frustrations is, I went to the chamber that first weekend we came in, about three weeks before the deadline, and I asked them, I said, "Help me with 4.6, because you're not going to like what you see if it's less than 4.6".

So... they claimed that they were helping, but they didn't deliver any votes for me. So when the Senate pushed it down from 4.6 to 4.3, then the tax on services list grew and expanded and now people are unhappy, but, you know, I saw this coming three weeks ago.

... and the Senate stalled until it was too late...

Nine o'clock Sunday night, a group came down the hallway of the Capitol, to me, saying, let's go to 4.7 or 4.75, I said, give me a half hour. I brought in House Fiscal, I brought in the Senate, and I concluded that we would face shutdown then, because 4.7, 4.75, you had to look at exemptions, you had to re-do the rollback, the sunset, and I just thought that we wouldn't be able to get there in time.

... and that's what happens when you try to make tax law in 30 minutes or less. You would think they would have learned that lesson the first time around.

Republican obstruction made the services taxes necessary. Now they put on a big show to distract you from the fact that it was their idea in the first place.

Anyone surprised by that?