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Political roundup: Consequences unknown for hasty moves on income tax rollback and school closings

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

This week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder admonished Republicans for rushing legislation to eventually eliminate the state income tax. Meanwhile Kalamazoo, Saginaw and Detroit schools are fighting possible closings. And to top it all off, President Trump hosted a dramatic press conference yesterday that left many scratching their heads.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, along with Vicki Barnett, the former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to discuss the week’s political news.

In regards to the rush toward a rollback of the state income tax, Gov. Snyder wrote, “I hope the House will be more deliberate before taking a full vote.”

Barnett agreed, criticizing the House for not hearing from budget experts about the impact of cutting the income tax.

“Everybody wants to get their hands on, saying we’re going to give money back to the people without realizing that there are no Keebler elves that come out of the trees and fix the roads,” Barnett said.

The bill doesn’t recommend spending cuts or any other ways of dealing with the consequences of eliminating the income tax.

“That’s the governor’s point,” Sikkema said. “Show me the spending cuts – that’s the responsible way to do it.”

Governor Snyder’s School Reform Office indicates there are 38 schools across the state which have consistently performed poorly. They could be closed. Kalamazoo, Saginaw and Detroit  are fighting the possible closings; the State Board of Education agrees the schools shouldn’t be closed.

The administration, Barnett said, has handled the school closings “extremely poorly.” She said the School Reform Office didn’t understand the impact school closures would have on policies like the Kalamazoo Promise and on transportation.

“Sometimes they said, ‘There’s a school within 30 miles, that’s okay,’” Barnett said. “Well, a kid can’t walk 30 miles to school each day.”

Both Barnett and Sikkema agreed that closing a low-performing school doesn’t fix the problem of substandard education.

Sikkema said it is positive to identify low-performing schools, but failing schools are just indicative of larger problems, like poverty.

“That entire situation has to be addressed,” he said. “It’s not just the school that needs to be focused on.”

As for President Trump's press conference on Thursday, Barnett said it was like “watching a train wreck… a careening nightmare of attacks on the media.”

Sikkema said the Trump administration’s stance on the media is part of a larger narrative that developed during the campaign. He said many voted for Trump due to his antagonism toward the media.

“And for a lot of people in this country, what is reported and how it’s been reported over the years does not reflect their values and who they think they are," he said.

Listen to the full interview above. It includes more on the potential income tax elimination, school closings, and Trump’s press conference.

 A previous version of this story indicated the 38 poorly performing schools would be closed. That has been corrected.

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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