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Tax cuts, civil rights expansion, right-to-work repeal among first bills of 102nd Michigan Legislature

State of Reform

Michigan Democrats are going after the state’s “right to work” law in one of their first bills of the legislative session.

The law bans union shops from requiring workers to pay full dues. It had been a major Republican victory when it passed in 2012.

Now that Democrats control the Michigan House, Senate, and Governor’s office, they’re seizing the chance to cover many of their own priorities.

House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) laid out some themes to reporters Wednesday after the session.

“Supporting working families, making sure that we’re growing our economy, ensuring that the areas that we have, they’re safe and strong communities and ensuring that the state is supportive,” Tate said.

Each bill Democrats filed Wednesday was a joint effort between the House and the Senate.

They included repealing the state’s pension tax and defunct 1931 abortion ban, growing the earned income tax credit, expanding civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and requiring prevailing wages in government-sponsored construction projects.

The state's earned income tax credit is based on a federal credit and offers tax breaks to low- and middle- income workers.

“Our first and only order of business is to tackle the real challenges that folks are facing by implementing an agenda that makes Michigan an even better place to call home,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said in a press release.

It’s uncertain how long it would take for Democrats to pass any of these bills.

Amber McCann, a spokesperson for Speaker Tate, said they’re not laying out a timeline for any votes on bills.

“Committee chairs will be announced soon, and the speaker is going to respect the chairs to do the work in committees,” she said.

When asked if assignments could come as early as Thursday — the second day of the legislative session — she said “anything’s possible.”

On the Republican side of the aisle, the first bills filed deal with tax policy.

Like the Democratic-sponsored bills, the GOP proposals would also cut taxes for retired workers and raise the earned income tax credit from 6% to 20% of the federal credit.

Both parties had supported legislation to raise it last session, but time ran out before the bills could get voted out of the Legislature. Some worried that meant residents would have to wait another year before they could apply it to their taxes.

House Minority Leader Matt Hall(R-Richland Twp) said his caucus’s version would retroactively allow residents to claim the credit on this year’s tax forms.

“We’re calling on Governor Whitmer and the legislative Democrats to get this done now. Because if we get this done now, when people file their tax returns this year, they can get that relief. If we drag this thing out, then they’d have to file an amended return to do it,” Hall said Wednesday.

A Democratic source said their party's version of the tax credit bill isn’t retroactive. But lawmakers are expecting to further negotiate it during the committee process.

Meanwhile, Republicans said their plan for retired workers involves allowing single filers 67 years old and older to deduct $40,000 in income, or $80,000 for joint filers. Those between the ages of 62 and 66 could deduct $20,000 in retirement individually, or $40,000 jointly.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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