CONTACT: Matt Bach
LANSING, Mich. — The Replace Don’t Erase coalition today launched a campaign to give all candidates for the state House and Senate the facts about legislation that would give the Governor and Legislature new power to take $470 million a year in local revenues away from local schools and local communities.
The coalition is sending three informational postcards about Senate Bills 1065-1072 to the homes of candidates seeking seats in the 97th state Legislature, which will be elected by Michigan voters Nov. 6 and take office in January. The bills would divert to the Legislature and Governor revenues from the business personal property tax (PPT) that local businesses pay to local communities and local schools. Under the bills, the Legislature and Governor would gain additional revenues to pay for state policies and priorities, while local schools and communities would have significantly less funds for local policies and priorities, such as police and fire protection, parks, libraries, road repairs and maintenance, and more. School districts use PPT revenues to repay bonds approved by local voters for capital projects.
Some legislators claim the bills replace most of the revenues to the local schools and communities that would be hit. The claim is completely false.
“All of us who understand the legislative process know it is illegal for a sitting legislature to bind and compel a future legislature to spend one penny on anything,” said Summer Minnick, Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. “So while these bills absolutely let the Legislature take local revenues from local schools and communities, they do nothing more than promise that future legislatures and governors might replace some of the funds. There is no guarantee in the bills that the revenues would be replaced. “Anyone who serves in future Michigan legislatures needs to know this fact because they will be dealing with the local property tax increases and service cuts that will hurt their local communities and schools.”
The coalition is also emailing the postcards to political reporters and editorial page editors across the state, encouraging the media to hold legislative candidates accountable for their position on the PPT issue as they campaign for endorsements and votes this summer and fall.
“This is one of the most important issues facing local taxpayers, local schools and local communities in all 148 state legislative districts in Michigan,” said Gretchen Couraud, Executive Director of the Michigan Library Association. “Every candidate elected to the next Legislature needs to know the facts and be accountable for their position on the issue. It is essential that this legislation include firm assurances that the funds being taken from local schools and communities are fully replaced. No ifs, ands or maybes. We all have seen past legislatures and governors break promise after promise to local communities and schools, so we need guaranteed replacement.”
Senate Bills 1065-1072 have passed the Senate and are pending in the House, which is not expected to act on the package until the current Legislature’s lame duck session after the Nov. 6 general elections. If the current Legislature does not settle the issue, the 2013-2014 Legislature likely will.
Most daily newspapers in Michigan that have editorialized on the bills have voiced criticisms or strong opposition. Michigan voters are also widely opposed, based on an April poll conducted by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA.
Opposition has focused on the fact that while the bills would allow the Legislature to take the local tax revenues away from local communities and schools, the legislation does not — despite the claims of some legislators — assure replacement of the funds. If the revenues are not replaced, local property tax increases will be triggered automatically in more than 400 local school districts statewide that will have less revenue to repay bonds approved by local voters. Counties and cities warn that more cuts will be made to police, fire and other essential services.
“We need to make sure all candidates for the next Legislature have the facts about these bills so they can have informed and accurate discussions about them with their opponents and with local taxpayers, voters and media,” said Don Wotruba, Deputy Director of the Michigan Association of School Boards. “Our coalition agrees the PPT is a bad tax that needs to be improved or replaced, but the revenues must be replaced too. Over the past decade, governors and legislatures have already cut billions of dollars in funding for local services. It is simply wrong for the Legislature to take away and take control of this critical source of local revenues and use it for state policies and priorities to the detriment of local services, priorities and taxpayers.”
For more information about Replace Don’t Erase, please visit www.replacedonterase.com.