Snyder expected to OK tax shift for schools, roads, environmental cleanup

By: - December 21, 2018 8:42 am

Michigan Capitol | Michael Gerstein

After a day of dealmaking, Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign a budget supplemental that will shift revenue from the School Aid Fund (SAF) to carry out road repairs and environmental cleanups.

House Bill 4991, sponsored by state Rep. Ed Canfield (R-Sebewaing), passed the Michigan House early this morning in a close 56-51 vote. The Senate had sprung the measure on Thursday afternoon on a mostly party-line 26-12 vote. It’s part of a $1.2 billion supplemental spending plan.

Rick Snyder

Here’s how the tax shift works. The bill takes $141 million from the SAF — which funds K-12 education — this year. In 2020, it’s $174 million and in 2021, it’s $178 million. That would be offset by increased sales tax revenues from online sales. That’s due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that is expected to mean $200 million more in sales tax revenue annually.

As a result, roads would see a bump of $114 million this year and receive $143 million next year. And there is $69 million for a fund dedicated to environmental cleanup known as the “Renew Michigan Fund.”

Intense talks on the budget supplemental between term-limited GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders have taken place all week. Snyder and one of his chief aides, Rich Baird, were at the Capitol this afternoon.

Democrats and education organizations opposed the plan, calling it a raid of the School Aid Fund. But Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Grand Haven), said the SAF would be “held harmless.”   

State Rep. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy), sponsor of the original HB 4991, attacked the Senate substitute. He said that his legislation had been “hijacked,” asked for his name to be taken off as a sponsor and urged a no vote.

Martin Howrylak

“I don’t think that we should vote for it,” Howrylak said.   

A bipartisan group of House members asked that their names be removed as co-sponsors of the original bill, a tax policy measure that involved the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.

The House members are: Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), Robert Wittenberg (R-Oak Park), David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), John Reilly (R-Oakland Twp.), Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit).

“Our schools are struggling,” said Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.), who urged a no vote. “They are on life support.”

Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) called the bill a “shell game.”

“This bill is an affront to our kids,” she said.

The Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators (MASA) and Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) have voiced opposition. Joining them are the Michigan AFL-CIO and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan and Michigan Education Association (MEA), the state’s leading education unions.

“Every superintendent in Michigan has been forced to work within the ‘do more with less’ model of school administration over the last many years, but I certainly doubt any of us expected to be told we now have to pay to fix Michigan’s roads at the expense of our classrooms as well,” said Mark Greathead, Tri-County Alliance for Public Education vice president and superintendent of Woodhaven-Brownstown Schools.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.