Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s pitch in his campaign for the GOP primary for governor is simple: Michigan got a lot better under his boss, Gov. Rick Snyder, and the Calley is key to that turnaround.
The Calley campaign last week released a 30-second ad saying he “redefined the role of lieutenant governor” and was the “driving force” behind tax cuts and other measures that sparked Michigan’s recovery.
The half accurate ad is the latest in an increasing TV ad war between Calley and his chief rival, Attorney General Bill Schuette, in the race to succeed the term-limited governor.
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“I’m Brian Calley. I’ve redefined the role of lieutenant governor. I was a driving force behind historic tax cuts. I cast the deciding vote to balance Michigan’s budget. What happened? Half a million jobs have been created. We hit the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years and Michigan’s economic growth is outpacing most other states.”
In 2011, the newly elected Snyder fulfilled a campaign promise and signed legislation to replace the unpopular Michigan Business Tax with a flat 6 percent corporate tax, a $1.7 billion tax cut for business. Calley cast the tie-breaking vote in favor.
The ad doesn’t mention that, as a state representative, Calley voted for the MBT in 2007.
Calley told Truth Squad his role in the creation of the MBT was to prevent a bad bill from getting worse. His campaign said he worked to “exempt as many businesses as possible from the tax,” and crafted parts of the bill that expanded a credit for small businesses.
The TV ad pointed to Calley’s tie-breaking vote that year on an education funding measure that it said “allowed the state Senate to balance the budget.”
The campaign also said Calley was “the administration lead” on phaseout of industrial personal property tax, approved by voters in 2014.
The ad is correct on two points: Michigan has gained 500,000 jobs since Snyder took office in 2011 and the unemployment rate is the lowest in 17 years.
But unemployment had begun to fall before Snyder’s election and well before the business tax cut went into effect in 2012. At 14.6 percent in June 2009, unemployment fell by more than 5 points, to 9.4 percent in December 2011.
The ad correctly cites evidence of Michigan’s recovery under Snyder. But Calley can hardly take credit for the gain of 500,000 jobs, as the ad implies.
Snyder was the driving force behind passage of the 2011 business tax cut, not Calley. It was one of Snyder’s key campaign promises. Calley also fails to mention that four years earlier, he helped pass the very measure this tax cut replaced.
And it’s misleading to imply the tax cut led to Michigan’s economic recovery.
That leaves Calley’s assertion that he “redefined” the role of lieutenant governor. His campaign referred Truth Squad to Snyder’s website that lists Calley achievements from leading a task force on the opiate addiction to special education reform.
Snyder also has said Calley took a “hands-on approach” to tax reform and “served as a catalyst for significant private sector job growth.”
“He’s been a full partner in this,” Snyder said when he endorsed Calley last month.
“This has not been a ceremonial role.”
Most lieutenant governors lead some policy initiatives, but veteran political analyst Bill Ballenger said there’s “never been a closer working relationship” in modern Michigan political history between a governor and lieutenant governor as that between Snyder and Calley.
Even so, for Calley to claim he redefined the office is “over the top as you might expect from a lieutenant governor running governor,” said Ballenger.