Friday, February 20, 2009

Michigan Senate Still Pushing Bush Republican Economic Policies

Just an update on a couple of things the Senate managed to "accomplish" before they took off for another week of vacation. With Michigan and the rest of the nation in economic crisis, unemployment growing, state budgets facing major deficits - our Senate Republicans are insisting on continuing with the Bush policies that got us here in the first place.

First, let's continue to destroy the middle class with anti-union measures that will keep Michigan workers in the "race to the bottom" as far as wages and working conditions go. The Senate passed SR 16 along party lines 20-15, Republicans for, Democrats against. Introduced by Senator Jansen, and sent to the US Congress (who will promptly laugh and throw it away)...

SR 16 - A resolution to memorialize the Congress of the United States to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.

Senators Basham, Gleason and Prusi stood up to protest this resolution. Here is Senator Gleason, who summed it all up quite nicely:

Now there has been an awful lot of blame put on collective bargaining units the last few decades, but also there are quite a bit of evidence that as collective bargaining units have met their demise, so have the middle class. It is unusual we use the same argument over and over again that those who belong to unions have caused some destruction to our national and state economy. Who could argue the fact that the more that we give the hardworking men and women in this state, the more they are going to spend; the more they are going to rev up this economy that has stalled. But how could anyone be small-minded enough to think when only about 11 percent of working men and women belong to unions, that that small percentage of union membership has caused the destruction of the state and national economy?

Senator Gleason offers that this is yet another attempt in the long line of attempts to make Michigan a right-to-work (for less) state, and he is correct. Destruction of the unions is the goal of Republicans everywhere, and our Republicans are no exception.

Next, we move on to the other Republican favorite - tax cuts for the rich. From MIRS, in yet another attempt to dismantle the MBT and create more holes in the budget that the Senate refuses to fill, Nancy Cassis offers up SB 69 to a panel for consideration. Under this bill, more businesses would be offered tax breaks by expanding the MBT to include higher wages for CEOs and less jobs created to qualify...

The bill addresses two tax exemptions. It gives an alternate tax break, or small business credit, to businesses whose gross receipts don't exceed $20 million. Businesses could qualify for the alternate tax if their officers' pay didn't exceed $250,000, up from $180,000 in the existing MBT. Businesses could qualify for the entrepreneurial credit if their gross receipts aren't more than $25 million and the bill would lower the number of jobs they would have to create from 20 to eight and lower the capital investment from $1.25 million to $500,000

... and it would dig the deficit $250 million deeper. When asked about that problem, once again Cassis shrugged her shoulders, and offered her "standard answer" of the "cost of doing nothing was much higher", although this is the equivalent of doing nothing, because it won't get past the House, just like last year when they tried this.

So easy to just "cut", isn't it? Why bother doing the heavy lifting? Cherry and Jacobs called it out for what it is - a tax break for the wealthy with no conditions on job creation or investment.

But all that was a little hard for some Democrats to swallow. Sen. Gilda JACOBS (D-Huntington Woods) said that "95 to 97 percent" of Michiganders don't pull down $180,000 per year.

"We certainly need to look at fairness here when the economy is struggling," she said.

Sen. Deb CHERRY (D-Burton) added: "I do think this is a targeted tax cut for CEOs making $180,000."

This bill is opposed by, well, everyone with a brain. They asked about what should be cut to make up this revenue...

The Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project, composed of the Michigan Municipal League, Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan and the Michigan Nonprofit Association, opposes the bill. In a memo, the group asked legislators to identify which programs should be cut to cover the revenue loss.

... and the ball was punted to people outside the Legislature.

Jacobs raised this a couple times and Holcomb responded that the (Michigan) Chamber (of Commerce) and other groups, including the Center for Michigan, had identified $1.5 billion in cuts.

Just as long as the Legislature doesn't have to do it, right? After all, we wouldn't want to break the long-running record of the Senate Republicans wasting our taxpayer time on legislation that goes absolutely nowhere.

These actions show that the Senate Republicans have no intention of either being responsible with the budget or working towards compromise on Michigan's problems. They pass their rightwing resolutions, they cut taxes for the rich, and then they go on vacation.

How has that worked out for us so far?