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Bridge Michigan
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Opinion | Whitmer must prioritize real tax relief for workers, families, seniors

Inflation and current events have had a wide-ranging impact on virtually everyone across Michigan.

Hard-working people and their families are seeing costs rise every time they go to the grocery store or pharmacy. People with long commutes are seeing gas prices well over $4 per gallon. Seniors living on fixed incomes aren’t able to handle such astounding increases in everyday expenditures.

Matt Hall
Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, represents the 63rd District in the Michigan House of Representatives. He is chair of the House Tax Policy Committee. (Courtesy photo)

They need wide-ranging reforms that do as much as possible to take stress off their finances.

The Legislature has stepped up with comprehensive tax reforms that provide real relief. A plan I developed that was integrated into a bill recently vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer included $2.5 billion in annual tax relief – reducing the state income tax rate from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent for all individual payers. This cut follows through on a previous commitment to restore the rate after it had been raised during the Gov. Jennifer Granholm administration. The plan also created a nonrefundable child tax credit worth $500 for each qualified dependent. Exemptions on income for people 62 and older, as well as additional exemptions on retirement income, would have seen some seniors eligible for savings of $40,000 as a single filer or $80,000 for those filing jointly. Michigan workers, families and seniors would have kept more of what they have earned.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in her annual State of the State address that she wants to put Michiganders first. But the tax plan she has pushed for prioritizes certain Michiganders while the Legislature’s plan provides broad relief for everyone. For seniors, the governor’s plan focuses on public pension income instead of including Social Security and 401(k) payments like the Legislature’s plan does. The Legislature’s approach also granted new exemptions for roughly 275,000 people between the ages of 62 and 67 – helping more people on fixed incomes save as they see costs rising.

Prices at the gas pump are also going up – shattering record highs for the national average – and the Legislature is committed to bringing costs down through tax relief.

Our plan establishes a six-month suspension on the state’s gas and diesel fuel tax of roughly 27.2 cents for every gallon. This would provide people with an estimated $750 million in combined savings overall. Gov. Whitmer has called on Congress to approve legislation to suspend the federal gas tax – an unnecessarily convoluted strategy that would provide the average driver with 39 percent less savings.

And that’s if Washington, D.C. chooses to act. Congress is consistently an entity with a lot on its plate, while the Michigan Legislature is listening to people throughout the state who need help now and prioritizing relief in response. It’s a better deal that actually can get done – truly a matter of dollars and sense.

There has been a lot of concern over whether these cuts are sustainable. It’s important that we use surplus funds to backfill vital tax revenue through the budget process. Local communities that need this revenue to fund local road repairs shouldn’t be left out to dry due to a game of monetary musical chairs. The state still has significant federal relief funding available to use for these types of issues, and the Legislature has prioritized many one-time funding measures so the state isn’t making commitments it can’t keep in the future.

What isn’t sustainable, or debatable, is the troublesome financial crossroads many people in Michigan currently find themselves at due to extreme costs. People I talk to throughout the areas I represent don’t believe for a second that the state can’t afford to enact these types of cuts. They’ve seen the budget swell by billions just over the past few years and understand their tax dollars have helped facilitate the flood of federal funding that has inundated state coffers.

We should be looking for ways to return as much money as we can to people so they can better meet these ongoing challenges. The governor must prioritize the pocketbooks of people in our state now, instead of worrying about what tax-and-spend campaign promises may not pan out.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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