Democrats slip up on couple of points about Bolger, Truth Squad rules

MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: “End Jase Bolger's Reign”

Who: Michigan Democratic Party
What: Web video
Truth Squad call: Foul.

Michigan Democrats have ramped up attacks on the House Republican speaker since revelation of a secretive scheme between Bolger and Grand Rapids House Democrat Roy Schmidt to have Schmidt file as a Republican minutes before the May filing deadline and arrange the filing of a fake Democrat, thus leaving Democrats no credible challenger.

While finding no evidence of a crime on the part of Bolger or Schmidt, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth concluded the scheme was  “clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a 'fraud' on the electorate.” The Ingham County Circuit Court on Aug. 27 directed Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina to serve as a grand juror and probe whether Bolger and Schmidt committed perjury, obstructed justice and engaged in a conspiracy to defraud voters. The ad  also attacks Bolger for his part in cuts to education, tax increases on seniors, the working poor, women's rights and other issues.

Questionable statement: “After 18 months as House speaker, what has Jase Bolger done for Michigan? One billion dollars in cuts to public education.”

Bolger presided over a May 2011 vote that would cut nearly $1 billion from K-12 funding and cut aid to public universities and community colleges by 15 percent. The compromise budget signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder reduced the K-12 cut to $475 million.

Cuts in the fiscal 2011-12 budget for Michigan's public universities were about $220 million,  plus another $12 million cut for Michigan's public community colleges. Combine them and the total reaches just over $700 million for the FY 11-12 budget year.

Questionable statement: “Unfair tax hikes on seniors, middle class families and the working poor.”

Bolger presided over a May 2011 vote to institute pension taxes on those born after 1946. A couple born after 1952 with more than $50,000 in income, including $48,000 in benefits, stood to pay $3,130 more in taxes because of the pension tax and changes in the homestead credit.

The same bill cut the Michigan Income Tax Credit for low-income wage earners from 20 percent of the federal credit to 6 percent. That reduced the average $430 state credit received by nearly 800,000 claimants down to $143.
The changes, which also included elimination of income tax deductions that can be used by families, were key elements of Gov. Rick Snyder's budget initiative and became law as Public Act 38 of 2011.

Questionable statement: “Taxed prescription medications for seniors.”

Bolger presided over passage of a bill that implemented a 1 percent tax on health insurance claims paid by health insurance carriers and third party administrators. It replaced a 6 percent use tax on Medicaid health maintenance organizations and was backed by AARP Michigan. If maintained, it would provide $400 million in Medicaid funding and trigger an $800 million federal match.

AARP Michigan President Eric Schneidewind said that the tax would keep the Medicaid program “whole during these difficult economic times. Failure to pass the claims tax would have meant devastating cuts to Medicaid, which provides long-term care for Michigan's seniors and health care for children in the state's most vulnerable families.”

The new tax became law on Sept. 20, 2011 and took effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

A federal judge rejected a challenge to the levy this week, though the trade group challenging it says it will appeal.

Questionable statement: “Attacked women's health and women's rights.”

Bolger presided over a 70-39 House vote in June to require that an abortion provider ask a woman seeking an abortion if she was intimidated into having an abortion. The bill also would require that medical providers that perform six or more abortions per month be licensed as a freestanding surgical outpatient facility. The Michigan National Organization for Women testified that the purpose of the bill was to close abortion clinics and discourage doctors from performing abortions and to increase the cost of abortions and “make them inaccessible or impossible to obtain in Michigan.”

Questionable statement: “Banned female Democratic lawmakers from speaking on the House floor.”

Rep. Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield was briefly banned by GOP leadership after she protested proposed abortion measures by announcing on the floor: “I'm so flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.” Rep. Barb Byrum of Onondaga also was banned after she insisted on an opportunity to speak and shouted "vasectomy" in reference to an amendment she wanted to limit the procedure. Bolger spokesman Ari Adler said the women were barred from the floor for violating the “decorum” of the House.

Questionable statement: “Did Bolger help cover up election fraud in House District 76? Did Bolger conspire to put a fake Democrat on the ballot to deceive voters?”

Kent County Prosecutor Will Forsyth was unequivocal in his conclusion of what happened, citing numerous text messages between Schmidt and Bolger as they hatched their plan to secure the seat for the GOP.

Forsyth found evidence that Schmidt directed his campaign treasurer to write a check for $2,000, with $1,000 to go to the purported Democrat, 22-year-old part-time mall worker Matthew Mojzak, and $1,000 to Schmidt's son, Ryan, for recruiting him. Mojzak withdrew two days after he filed, when questions grew about whether he was a legitimate candidate, whether he lied about his residency and the timing of Schmidt's switch.

The day after Schmidt's party switch, Bolger told reporters: “I don't know much about (Mojzak) except what I'm reading.” But the day before Schmidt changed parties, Schmidt and Bolger had the following text message exchange as Schmidt told Bolger he had found his would-be Democrat and Bolger asked his name:

“Schmidt: ‘Matthew Mojak\nHe will be at the sec. Of state with a new address this afternoon.’

“Speaker: ‘Have this completed, double checked, and notarized. Bring tomorrow and we’ll b all set. This will block any games anyone could try to play and u will b..clear”

The morning of the switch, Bolger sent a text message to Schmidt: “... Plz txt me when u have Matthew's paperwork complete….. From our atty: there is no requirement for a phone # or email on an affidavit of identity. So, leave those two blank on Matthew's form.”

Overall impression: The ad accurately states the policy positions of the Michigan House, under Bolger’s leadership, in some of the major issues since 2010. The GOP House added a tax on pensions – though one designed to affect future, not current, retirees. It voted for cuts to K-12 and higher education. It voted for cuts to tax credits for low-income residents. However, some of the actual reductions enacted in law, after further negotiation with the Michigan Senate and Snyder administration, were lower than what the ad implies.

At the time the pension tax passed, Michigan was just one of three states without such a tax. The ad does not define the difference between an "unfair" tax law change and a fair one.

The suggestion Bolger “taxed prescriptions for seniors” is misleading. The legislation was widely viewed as a positive step for the state Medicaid program and had the backing of AARP Michigan, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association and the Michigan Medical Association.

Whether or not Bolger “attacked” women's rights and health could be deemed debatable, depending on one's view of abortion.

It is true he banned two female lawmakers for use of language, an act that drew national attention -- and considerable criticism -- to the state House.

As for Bolger's part in a conspiracy to assure an electoral win for now-Republican Schmidt, the ad’s questions and/or claims are consistent with the conclusion of the Kent County prosecutor’s report on the issue.

Foul or no foul: Foul. The ad accurately represents the positions of Bolger and the Michigan House under his leadership. However, the ad overstates the size of the cut to public education and oversimplifies the Medicaid/prescription tax issues.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Comments

Ruth Kelly
Sun, 09/09/2012 - 10:22am
The statement by The Bridge, ". The GOP House added a tax on pensions – though one designed to affect future, not current, retirees. " confuses me. I am a current retiree and now pay tax on my pension as I was born in 1953.
Sun, 09/09/2012 - 10:24am
You certainly spent a lot of time and energy splitting hairs regarding Bolger's record, he has simply presided over the worst hijacking of citizen rights in recent MI history. The Repugs have chopped and hacked at the fabric of MI law, and forced immediate implementation of their misguided agenda under the guise of "emergency". They have made a mockery of the legislative process. The citizens of MI will repudiate their monkey business in Nov., and in 2 years hence.