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.
- Gretchen Whitmer’s plan for Michigan: $3B of promises and wishful thinking
- Bill Schuette wants to fix roads while cutting taxes. Good luck with that.
- 2018 voter issue guide
- Where Michigan governor primary winners Schuette and Whitmer stand on issues
- Gretchen Whitmer: Grow Michigan by offering debt-free community college
- Bill Schuette: Michigan must fix education, lower taxes and car insurance
- Michigan voters to governor candidates: Fix the roads, schools, insurance
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.