State Republican Party gets foul in House 70 campaign, Truth Squad rules

MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Rep. Rick Outman v. Mike Huckleberry (House District 70)

Who: Michigan Republican Party (radio ad); Progress Michigan (website); We Are the People, Michigan committee (mailer), Mike Huckleberry website (

What: radio ad, websites and mailers

Truth Squad call: Foul on Republican Party ad; No Foul on Progress Michigan website; No Foul on We the People mailer; No foul on Huckleberry website

Michigan Republican Party radio ad

The radio ad running in the 70th House District centered in Montcalm County claims  Huckleberry, a former state representative, should not be responsible for the state’s budget because he has not been able to manage his personal finances. Outman, in contrast, the spot says, has shown he can balance both his own finances and the state’s.

Questionable statement: "Mike Huckleberry says Michigan should balance the state budget, but he can't even balance his own budget. Huckleberry racked up $30,000 in personal debts he can't pay. He's been sued for not paying his bills."

Huckleberry has acknowledged the debt, but said he has developed a payment plan to repay it. The debts, he said, were related to his restaurant business.

Questionable statement: "Truth is, Mike Huckleberry has a long history with over-spending. He voted to support over $500 million in wasteful spending from Jennifer Granholm. And he supported the trillion dollar stimulus bill -- the one that failed to create any jobs and soak us deeper in debt. Mike Huckleberry's big spending ideas are too dangerous for our future."

The spot does not mention what “wasteful spending” Huckleberry supported, but a sampling of the budget bills from the 2009-10 legislative session showed Huckleberry generally supported the final budget agreements.

Huckleberry co-sponsored a resolution in 2009 urging Congress to adopt the stimulus. Republicans and Democrats have differed for the past three years on whether the stimulus package can be credited with creating any jobs. But a 2011 Congressional Budget Office report estimates the stimulus act will add between 0.3 percent and 0.8 percent to GDP and will be responsible for the creation of between 400,000 and 1.1 million jobs this year.

Questionable statement: "Rick Outman helped balance the state budget on-time and without gimmicks for the first time in a decade. He did it the same way he balances his family's checkbook -- protecting the things that matter most and making sure to save for the future."

Outman did vote in favor of the budgets when they came up for votes in the House, and the budgets the past two years have been completed well before the end of the fiscal year. The budgets also have not included some of the one-time funding adjustments that kept budgets in balance for much of the past decade.

It is unclear if Outman uses the same accounting system the state does to balance his checkbook. But opponents did find records showing Outman had property in Six Lakes foreclosed in 2008 for non-payment of $3,277 in taxes in 2006. The same property was listed as his residence on a notice of federal tax lien for $16,225 filed in August 2009 and state income tax lien for $2,492 filed in August 2007. Outman, as Outman Excavating Incorporated, also had a judgment filed against him by the Montcalm Circuit Court for $5,874 owed to L&D Carey & Sons Trucking in November 2008.

Outman said the debts were all related to his business, a combination of the poor economy and increasing fuel prices.

Foul or no foul: Foul -- what's the proof of "wasteful spending"? Also, for any political candidate with prior tax issues, it's probably best to avoid any claims that tout budgetary acumen off of personal experience.

Progress Michigan website

The site, essentially a press release, calls out Outman for financial trouble he had just before running for office and argues he is hypocritical for pointing out Huckleberry’s financial troubles.

Questionable statement: "Outman slams opponent for bankruptcy while facing a mountain of debt, over $21,000 in delinquent taxes, and home foreclosure."

Progess Michigan did uncover documentation to show Outman faced tax trouble from 2006 through 2008, with unpaid taxes totaling about $21,994. Among the documents is a notice of foreclosure.

Outman said he is still carrying some debt, but has paid off all of the tax liens.

Progress Michigan does not provide the documents to support it, but claims Outman did not pay his property taxes until earlier this month.

Foul or no foul: No foul. Outman did face financial and tax troubles.

We Are the People, Michigan mailer

The mailer claims Outman shifted state education funds to private schools and Huckleberry will fight against tax increases.

Questionable statement: "State Rep. Rick Outman Voted to cut $70 million from our public schools, sending kids to private, for-profit 'cyberschools.'"

Outman did vote in favor of SB 619 (analysis) that increased the number of cyber charter schools to 15 from two. The bill also increased the maximum enrollment in the various schools to 10,000 each. But the bill also limits total enrollment in cyber schools to 1 percent of the 2011-12 pupil count for 2012-13 and to 2 percent of the 2011-12 count for 2013-14.

At the current minimum foundation allowance of $6,966 per student, the bill could allow $69.7 million for any school that reaches its maximum enrollment.

The two current schools are run by for-profit management companies, but they are public school academies open to any student in the state.

Questionable statement: "Tired of Lansing politicians raising our taxes? Mike Huckleberry: 'High taxes will hurt families and our economy. That is why I never voted for any.'"

At least for bills that made it into statute, there was no legislation during the 2009-10 session when Huckleberry served last that served to increase taxes. All of the tax bills during that session provided or extended tax credits, clarified tax provisions or provided tax amnesty programs.

He did vote against legislation (HB 5386 of 2009) that implemented a tax on physicians designed to match federal Medicaid grants. The bill was defeated in the Senate.

Foul or no foul: No foul. The results of the cyberschool change could mean nearly $70 million in state aid go from traditional public schools to cyberschools.

Huckleberry website (

Questionable statement: "My independence will allow me to vote on issues, not party politics. I will vote for you, your family and for the 'common ground' that we all share, Michigan."

Huckleberry did vote against his party’s position on several instances while he was in the House, including the physician tax.

Questionable statement: "Economists credit the auto industry with our turn around, not the upcoming tax increases as Lansing wants you to believe.  My opponent voted for House Bill # 4526, otherwise known as the 'January Surprise.'  When you file your taxes you will be surprised at how much extra money you owe."

Republicans have argued that the tax changes adopted last year have improved the economy, but as many of those changes were not effective until the 2012 tax year, there is some reasonable question what effect those changes have had on the state’s economy, particularly since unemployment had been improving since early 2011 and has increased several months this year.

The omnibus budget in HB 4526 (PA 63 of 2011) was based on revenue assumptions from the tax changes, but did not itself include those changes. The tax changes were in HB 4361 (PA 38 of 2011). Outman did vote in favor of the budget (House Journal 49), but he voted against the tax changes (House Journal 43).

Those who have not been paying attention to the news, or who have forgotten about the tax change, could potentially be surprised to see that many of the exemptions they had for 2011 are not available for the current tax year. The “January Surprise” moniker was affixed by opponents of the change.

Questionable statement: "In 2004, I started warning about 'outsourcing jobs.' Today, I am deeply concerned with tax increases, costing some of you up to $3,000. Taking two billion dollars in spending from you the consumer is going to be a job killer just like outsourcing proved to be.

Huckleberry had raised outsourcing jobs as an economic issue in his prior campaigns, including his runs for the 4th U.S. House District against U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, in 2004 and 2006.

There are a variety of ways to get to $3,000 extra in taxes from the individual income tax changes. The bill brings the rate only to 4.25 percent instead of the planned cut to 3.9 percent. It also eliminated the $600 per child credit, reduced the credit for private pensions to $20,000 per person from $45,120, cut the Earned Income Tax Credit to 6 percent of the federal credit from 20 percent, and taxes public pensions.

The tax package provided a variety of cuts to business taxes that Republicans argued would attract businesses to the state or allow those here to expand hiring. Democrats have argued the changes will not improve the economy and could harm it by restricting funds to certain state programs.

Questionable statement: "The current legislature slashed budgets for education, veterans, police and fire protection; then raised your taxes unbalancing your budget to balance their budget. Why is the tax increases designed to not hurt you until after the election? Why do they only hurt you the middle class, retirees, families, the working poor, farmers and land owners?  Where is the shared sacrifice?"

The 2011-12 budget did include cuts to most state programs, including education, the State Police, as well as some revenue sharing that funds local police and fire departments. Revenue sharing for counties, as well as statutory revenue sharing, saw cuts totaling $121 million. But constitutional revenue sharing increased $25.5 million.

Veterans programs saw cuts only in the Grand Rapids Veterans' Home, which lost $4.2 million in the initial budget from expected savings for contracting out some services. The budget for other veterans programs held steady from the prior year, as did the department’s budget as a whole.

And, as mentioned above, the Legislature did increase taxes, or reduce tax cuts, on individuals. For most individuals, the tax changes would not be noticed until February at the earliest when they begin filing their taxes. The changes could arguably affect some retirees disproportionately, depending on when they were born, because they will now pay taxes on their income. But the credit elimination and ending the planned rate reduction would arguably hit all residents equally because the state has a flat rate tax.

Snyder had called for shared sacrifice when he began putting together his budget for the 2011-12 year, and Democrats have argued that the changes as implemented amount to a shift away from businesses to individuals, not shared sacrifice. For the current budget year, the changes were projected to cut business taxes by $1.6 billion and increase personal taxes by $1.4 billion.

Questionable statement: "My opponent asked for your vote by campaigning against raising taxes. 'Lansing politics' must have changed his core values."

Outman did vote for the current year budget, but he did not vote for the final version of the tax changes. So he technically did not vote for the personal income tax increases, though he supported a budget based on that revenue.

Questionable statement: "I sponsored or Co-sponsored 26 bills of which 21 became law. Three bills passed with 100% bipartisan vote!"

The Legislative Service Bureau showed that Huckleberry sponsored or co-sponsored 113 bills, of which 21 were signed.

Questionable statement: "I was rated the second most bipartisan Democrat in the House."

Huckleberry does not indicate on his site who gave him that rating, but, as stated above, he did not always vote with his party on issues.

Foul or no foul: No foul. Statements reviewed generally track with the public record on recent taxation votes and on Huckleberry's service.

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