Schuette and Whitmer’s tax, spending plans for Michigan don’t add up

Michigan gubernatorial candidates Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer have significantly different governing visions for the state.

Gretchen Whitmer wants to provide two free years of community college without raising taxes. Bill Schuette says he can fix Michigan’s woeful roads with no new money.

Are the proposals within the realm of possibility? Maybe.

Are they likely? No way, experts say.

Today, Bridge Magazine is examining the taxing and spending proposals of the two major party candidates for governor: Whitmer, the East Lansing Democrat, and Schuette, the Republican attorney general from Midland.

Bottom line: Plans from both would create big deficits in the state budget, said Al Pscholka, a former state budget director.

Whitmer would grow the budget by 10 percent through a host of new programs, while Schuette would cut the budget by $1.3 billion with tax breaks but offers no solutions to plug the hole. Michigan's constitution requires a balanced budget.

“They’re just doing it in different ways. It’s like: pick your poison,” Pscholka said.

The reality, experts say, is that what materializes when one of them becomes governor likely will be significantly different than their plans.

Campaigns develop talking points and plans, but the details are often purposefully thin. Rare is the candidate who says “I’m going to raise taxes” or “here are all the services I’ll cut for a tax break.”

“The reality is when you’re running for office you don’t accentuate the negative. You accentuate the positive,” said Jeff Guilfoyle, vice president of Public Sector Consultants, a Lansing-based consulting and research firm.

But voters who get bombarded with ads aren’t stupid. Most know that what the politicians are selling isn’t the whole story.

“People know what’s going on,” Guilfoyle said.

Bridge is taking a critical look at the proposals of the candidates, to help voters decide if the promises pass muster of if they’re more hot air than workable solutions.

Indeed, the state is seeing tax revenues rise, buoyed by a growing economy. And new taxes are on the horizon –  from Internet sales tax to potential taxes on recreational marijuana.

As voters consider their options Nov. 6, they are picking priorities –  which direction do you want the state to go? How do you want to spend that money? On new programs or a tax breaks?

The candidates themselves are pointing out those very differences.

Schuette: “There is a sharp philosophical divide between the candidates. Bill Schuette does not believe the first answer to every problem is to raise taxes,” John Sellek, a spokesman for the Republican, wrote in an email to Bridge.


Whitmer: “Anyone can offer positions and make empty promises to get elected, but I’ve got real plans to get things done that are paid for and will actually make a difference in people’s lives right now,” she told The Detroit News.


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Thu, 10/04/2018 - 9:24am

We've become so stupid that we vote upon what the "other guy" promises or is outraged about. Of course we know that neither of these two will keep their pledges and pander. Yet we and most of the press won't hold them accountable.

It's a strange reality that the truth is, libertarian candidates are becoming more central and have a greater grip of reality that the two large parties that are quickly drifting to the fringes. Yet since so much is decided on 30 second commercials that say nothing, we're getting what we deserve.

I don't don't know about others but Schuette scares me. He's the type that ignores the public will and appease a few that hold him to their contributions and pulpit. So I've voting Whitmer even though I don't want to. Neither will do a large percentage of their bull. But sadly most of all, wish I could re-elect Synder. Forget the phony Flint crap, that's another story about how the public was BSed into forgetting how incompetent and corrupt Flint government has been for decades. But truth is, this election is how term limits are a mistake. Except maybe in the case of Stabenow who is proof of how walking in a parade every six years is a steady job.

Paul Jordan
Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:03am

While I agree with Lennie on much of what he says here, he's wromg about Flint. Flint's government was no worse (or better) than other cities in Michigan. What did Flint in was the loss of industry combined with drastic cuts in revenue sharing.
Ascribing it to mismanagement is not only wrong, but very suspect.

Paul Jordan
Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:03am

While I agree with Lennie on much of what he says here, he's wromg about Flint. Flint's government was no worse (or better) than other cities in Michigan. What did Flint in was the loss of industry combined with drastic cuts in revenue sharing.
Ascribing it to mismanagement is not only wrong, but very suspect.

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 9:16pm

Sorry Paul, but the under-funding of pension plans, neglected maintenance, and bloated unsustainable city bureaucracies were features way before revenue sharing was cut back. But I'd like to know why it's such a great idea to take money from out state tax payers and funnel it into big city coffers? Or are you saying that our cities are going to be perpetual resource sucking basket cases?

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:05am

I largely agree with your assessment, except one point. Libertarianism will always be fringe, because there are only two types of Libertarians: Those who already have an obscene amount of wealth and want more, and those who haven't realized (or refuse to admit) that they will be the peasants in the neo-feudalism that is the end result of libertarian policy.

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:06am

Of course we don’t have enough money to fix the things that need fixing. But does anyone question where the money we do have is going? Twenty five percent of the population is on MediCAID. Twenty five percent! And it’s not that that percent shouldn’t have health care, but the slick fraudsters try to extract every cent they can get from that 25%. Look at durable medical equipment as an example. Open sewer of abuse by the providers. Look at drug markups and demand that the Cadillac of drugs be made available to everyone when generics do just fine in most cases. Our prison system needs a gross magnitude of reform and takes a large part of the state budget to run. In education, Detroit gets the largest per pupil amount from local business, state funding and federal grants. Politicians seem to concentrate on shoveling money in but not listening to educators to determine whether it is spent wisely. Why are we giving away a precious resource like water basically for free, when a model like oil and mineral rights could be used to increase state revenue.

I say look at the expenses, and perhaps there is room to divert some money to the problems that need fixing, the roads, the infrastructure, education, and proper healthcare.

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 9:30pm

Sadly we have two candidates without the slightest clue about where income and wealth come from other than being a governmental parasite. Schuette may not have a clue, his promises unconvincing and are unlikely to do much, but they avoid the Neo Marxist economic destruction that Whitmer's would bestow on our improving economy.

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 9:27am

Taxes are now Neo Marxist? Jesus, the buzzwords.

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 12:52pm

Learned to read in public school I assume? Must be hitting a nerve? Taxes ... depends, but $15 minimum wage - yes!

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 11:21am

A living wage is not Neo Marxist. When Whitmer calls for expropriation, then you can call it Marxist. Do you get paid to propage nonsense?

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 9:48am

Schuette is beholding to the DeVos family. They are all about making money for themselves and their wealthy friends. Betsy's brother, Erik Prince is a mercenary (Blackwater was the original name).

Cindy M
Sun, 10/07/2018 - 8:39am

We have two parties in this state; the wealthy corporations and CEOs and the rest of us. To right our collective ship we need to pull together for each other. I think corporations and CEOs don't pay enough taxes; too many loopholes. We subsidize their employees with healthcare. We enrich insurance companies and pharmaceuticals with our private , public, military, Medicare patchwork. We believe our natural resources belong to the wealthy so that as long as you have a drill, semi, pipe, or saw; lucky you...just take it. This thoughtless system is unsustainable. Other countries are far more successful with fewer resources. Top concern? Education! From preschool on...including college. Why should our future talent be stocking at WalMart?