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Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

Michigan's race for governor: Meet GOP candidate Kevin Rinke

There are five candidates trying to win the Republican Party's nomination to challenge Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the November election. The primary is on August 2.

As part of Michigan Radio's Election 2022 coverage, we're speaking to those candidates on Morning Edition.

Kevin Rinke is a businessman who has worked in the auto industry and other fields. He lives in Oakland County.

Rinke spoke with Morning Edition host Doug Tribou.

Doug Tribou: You owned and operated businesses in a couple of different industries, including car dealerships. What are your top concerns about Michigan's economy and what changes would you propose?

Kevin Rinke: I think the people of Michigan are realizing that to have a successful state, we need to have a diverse business economy. And unfortunately, we've been losing businesses and losing residents under this particular governor's leadership.

We need to create an environment that our existing businesses can be successful in and that also attracts new businesses like aerospace, like cybersecurity. Michigan needs to change its business climate from a tax and regulatory perspective if we hope to attract people.

DT: The state of Michigan has a budget surplus right now in the billions of dollars. Both Republicans and Democrats in Lansing have said that they're open to some
tax-cut proposals. How would you deal with that surplus?

KR: Kevin Rinke's plan is to completely eliminate the personal income tax, [which is] 4.25%. It gives the people back $12 billion of their own dollars for them to spend because I believe they know how to spend it better than Lansing.

DT: How would you offset the revenue loss that would be created by the elimination of the personal income tax?

KR: If I give the people of Michigan back their money, we would have the largest budget in the history of the state, pre-COVID, by over $9 billion. And that's before you add in the taxes from people spending the $12 billion. That's before you add in the taxes from people who currently leave the state for six months and one day to avoid paying personal income tax. They go to states like Florida, which has no personal income tax. So really, we'd still have the largest budget in the history of Michigan at the end of the day.

DT: Let's turn to some other issues. You also invested in a company that cares for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. And I'd like to ask you about Michigan's auto no fault law. Changes to that law, reduced fees for care providers. Many of them are now going out of business and people are losing critical care. Would you support revisions to the law to continue care for people severely injured before it was enacted?

KR: Absolutely. And I never would have signed the bill that the Republican legislature presented to Gretchen Whitmer. Those people paid a fee to the insurance companies that the insurance companies set to cover the potential of catastrophic injury. When they paid for that contract. They should have been grandfathered in. And unfortunately, the bill that was signed went retroactive and is actually, maybe making people die.

"[C]ompletely eliminate the personal income tax, [which is] 4.25%. It gives the people back $12 billion of their own dollars for them to spend because I believe they know how to spend it better than Lansing."
Kevin Rinke

DT: I should ask you for a note of disclosure. Has your business interest been hurt by the change to the law?

KR: I am not involved anymore with Cassell & Associates. I am certain that they have been impacted, but I cannot tell you to what degree.

DT: We've seen a string of mass shootings in schools here in the U.S., including the shooting last year at Oxford High School. Would you support any changes to gun laws in Michigan, including red-flag laws that could potentially have an effect on those types of shootings?

KR: I happen to be a constitutionalist, and so I believe in constitutional carry. Doesn't mean that everybody carries a gun, but they have the right to do that.

Now, potentially because of situations, there may be legislation that comes up. And as governor prior to signing that, I would review that legislation, but I'm not going to speculate on what would be put forth.

The fact of the matter is you can't stop people who have a negative intent. And let's look at Michigan, which has the largest domestic terrorism event regarding children in the history of our country. And that was just north of Lansing [in Bath in 1927], when a gentleman blew up a school. He actually planted explosives. So people with ill intent are going to do bad things. And that's why we need to strengthen our laws and our enforcement and how we look at people.

DT: Obviously, the example of bombings or bomb threats is valid, but I think it's fair to say that shootings are clearly more prevalent and more of an ongoing issue in our society.

KR: We have also seen, you know, mass killings or mass injuries caused by automobiles, incidents with knives. And I realize that guns are an emotional issue, but people who are law abiding understand how those guns operate and they handle them safely, incorrectly. And that includes me. What good is it to charge, for instance, a perpetrator of a crime with 150 violations of the law when they killed somebody? It shows that making more laws is not the answer.

DT: The criminal charges that you're talking about, though, are meant to be applied retroactively after an incident. The laws that I'm asking about are more preemptive in the form of a red-flag law. For example.

KR: Here's a for instance, and this is somewhat tongue in cheek. I get texts from people who don't like the fact that I'm running for government and they call me crazy. Does that raise a red flag? Would that give the police the right? Because someone accused me of being crazy, which is the criteria, or mentally unfit, which is the criteria under red flag for the police to confiscate and eliminate or avoid due process.

DT: I do think that that process varies from state to state [that have the laws] in how the language is. But I take your point.

On your campaign website, you say, "The 2020 election was rife with administrative problems leading to a tainted election in the eyes of millions." Do you believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 election?

KR: Joe Biden is the president of the United States. It's just that simple. When I talk about election integrity, it's critical for our republic and for our state. And yet there are rules and laws about our elections that need to be enforced and the people need to be reminded of. There are conditions. You need to be a citizen. You need to be properly registered. You can only vote one time. People should expect that voting rolls are clean.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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