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Governor Snyder making changes to get budget proposal through Senate

Governor Rick Snyder is working to get his budget through the State Senate. He hopes to have an agreement on the next fiscal year's budget by May 31st.
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Governor Rick Snyder is working to get his budget through the State Senate. He hopes to have an agreement on the next fiscal year's budget by May 31st.

Governor Rick Snyder continues to negotiate with lawmakers to try to get his budget proposal through the Senate.

Parts of his proposal are facing a tough sell, even among his fellow Republicans.

The Snyder administration changed its position on eliminating the earned income credit, and now says families should still be able to claim it, but at a reduced rate.

Families eligible for the state credit in 2009 claimed an average of $432 per household. The Michigan League for Human Services says the reduced credit will still allow eligible families to take $140 off their 2011 tax bill, or add part of it to their return.League President Gilda Jacobs says this is an improvement over the administration’s original plan to scrap the credit altogether or allow a small credit only for working poor families with children:

“It does preserve a good chunk of the earned income tax credit," said Jacobs. It’s for all filers, so it really will be spread out over 700,000 people in the state who really need it.”

Jacobs says the money may not seem like much, but it could help with school clothes or a car repair that allows a working adult to get to a job.

Snyder administration officials say their plan can absorb the change without affecting the business tax rollback that remains a key element of the strategy to accelerate new jobs created mostly by small- and medium-sized businesses.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says that will mean more to working poor families than a tax break.

“Our goal is to make sure that they have jobs so that they don’t qualify for the earned income tax credit at all anymore,” said Calley.

Democrats argue that tax breaks for businesses won’t create many jobs, while budget cuts to schools, universities and local governments will make the state less competitive in attracting or keeping families.

Republican leaders are counting on few, if any, Democratic votes to win Senate approval of the governor’s tax plan.

But the Republican governor also faces a challenge on the GOP side of the aisle.

Many Republicans are loathe to support the package because it would extend the state income tax to pensions of people born after 1946.

In fact, the bill bypassed the state Senate Finance Committee, the usual venue for tax legislation. Support on that committee is so weak that even the chair opposes the tax plan.

The tax reform legislation was assigned instead to the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee.

Committee chair Mark Jansen says he’s ready to vote for the package, but a lot of his GOP colleagues remain unconvinced.

“So now we’re working through what are their questions and what other issues bubble up for them and we have to go through that process as senators,” said Jansen.

Jansen says he expects the measure will need to be, to use his word, “tweaked” some more before it comes up for a Senate vote, maybe later this week.

Governor Snyder, for his part, says he thinks the negotiations are promising and his tax plan remains on track. “I think we’re in reasonably good shape and you don’t take it for granted until the vote comes,” said Snyder.

The governor says there is still no reason why tax reforms and the new state budget cannot be wrapped up by his deadline of May 31st.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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