The fight in Lansing over who is getting tax relief and how much continues after lawmakers thought it was settled weeks ago. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Democrats proposed $180 rebate checks for every tax filer in the state as part of the tax relief plan.
In order to send those checks out, lawmakers would have to sacrifice a 0.2% income tax rollback supported by Republicans. The rollback plan won out but now it may not be the win Republicans thought they were getting.
When no Republicans supported the Democrats’ tax relief plan, the Left still had enough votes to pass the plan but not enough to go into effect in time to send out the $180 rebate checks the governor proposed.
The Republicans got a big win from the minority seat, getting small but long term tax relief over just a one-time payment.
It was a win until this week when Attorney General Dana Nessel drafted an opinion stating the 2015 law, that created the tax rollback, was only for one year. It is not the ongoing, permanent relief Republicans say they intended.
“Their intent at the time does not matter once the law passes,” said Michael McDaniel, professor at WMU Cooley Law School in Lansing.
Immediately, Republicans cried foul.
Former Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter released a statement saying, “When we crafted this deal in 2015, it was clear to everyone involved that the income tax cut trigger would create a permanent tax cut. It’s disappointing the Attorney General has decided to ignore that and play partisan games at the expense of Michigan workers.”
McDaniel says whether intended or not, the written law does not specify a long term reduction.
“It’s clear that Subsection B sets the base rate and the base rate in Michigan is 4.25%. In 2023 there’s going to be a reduction to that year,” said McDaniel. “It says nothing about whatever the base rate in Michigan being in 2023. Let’s say it’s reduced to 4%, there’s nothing in the law that says that 4% becomes the new base rate for income taxes in Michigan whatsoever.”
With the legislature on a two week break, the issue is sure to be revisited but for now the ruling is official. Michiganders will see a 0.2% state income tax reduction for one year.
“The Attorney General’s opinion is now binding on the state treasurer,” said McDaniel. “Unless overruled, or I should say, superseded by a court.”