House Republicans must think voters are awfully stupid.
Apparently, they think the average voter can be bought off with 50 cents more jingling in his pocket each week, thanks to what they adorably call "tax relief."
Yes, if you make $50,000 a year, you will see a whopping $23 bucks more a year under an income tax cut the House GOP is mulling. If you're one of the growing number of Michiganders who is only making $25,000, you'll be enjoying $11 more a year.Don't blow that all at one time. That could be two trips to McDonald's, if you're frugal and go the value meal route.
But more on that in a minute. First, let's remember some history Republicans would like you to forget this November.
Last year, Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP Legislature pushed through a massive $1.4 billion tax increase on individual taxpayers. They were hoping we didn't notice, as they kept chirping about the $1.6 billion tax cut for "job providers" -- i.e. businesses.
Of course, many of us did notice when April 15 came around and we had to fork over more to the state of Michigan than expected. And it will be even worse next year, when the full tax hikes kick in.
How much more you'll be paying depended on a variety of factors. On the high end, a retired couple born after 1952 with $53,000 in taxable income is slammed with a $3,130 tax hike, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.
A married couple with two kids making $55,250 (around Michigan's median income) pays $739 more per year. On the low end, a single person making $85,000 enjoys a $166 tax increase.Adorably, the Tea Party didn't say boo about these big tax increases because they came from Republicans. Ditto most right-wing columnists at the Detroit News or the GOP-aligned Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
So how have Republicans raised your taxes? Let me count the ways.
For starters, the amount of income tax you forfeit was supposed to go down. Remember the big, bad Granholm tax hike of 2007 that the Detroit News helpfully described in this panic-stricken headline: "Michigan wakes up to tax increases"?
Well, the income tax rate was hiked from 3.9 to 4.35 percent. But under the law passed in '07, that was supposed to start coming down to 4.25 percent in 2012. And the rate was scheduled to keep falling until it hit 3.9 percent again.Snyder and Republicans had other ideas for your tax money. They kept the rate at 4.35 percent this year and decided to only move it down to 4.25 next year and into the future.
But that's not the biggest way Republicans have pickpocketed us plain old, non-business owning, but still society-contributing folks.
Your tax bill really gets cut with exemptions you can claim (thanks here to my Republican accountant father who helped break down my own tax hike this year).
Those of us with children used to see a $600 break per child, which, of course, is chump change compared to the endless expenses of braces, summer camp, antibiotics and clothes they seem to outgrow the minute you cut the tags off.
But it was something. And now it is no more. Yes, family values Republicans decided not to value your family and stick you with a tax hike.
Most of us also used to get a tax break for our house or apartment through the homestead property tax credit. But Republicans phased a good chunk of that out.
Giving to charity to help find a cure for breast cancer or help the food pantry down the block used to earn you a break in your state tax bill. But that's gone, too.
If you haven't been doing so well in Michigan's decade-long recession, you probably qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), with an income cutoff of about $44,000 for a family of four. The EITC kept many folks afloat and off welfare, which is why Ronald Reagan was its biggest champion. But that tax break got cut to ribbons in last year's overhaul.
You've probably heard of the pension tax. It was supposed to apply to everyone, because Snyder wanted a simplified tax code. But instead, Republicans made hash of it. Old folks age 67 and older don't have to pay taxes on their retirement income and those 60 to 66 get some exemptions.
But as will be the case with coming Social Security and Medicare "reform" (i.e. kiss 'em goodbye), those of us under 60 are screwed. We're taxed for everything we're lucky to stow away for our golden years.
It should be noted that Senate Democrats this week tried to dump most of these tax hikes in a series of votes on a technical tax bill, SB 1104. They failed, leaving Republicans to awkwardly argue that they were against cutting taxes.
But Republicans do say they want to help us (a little) after taxing us out of house and home. Call it a deathbed conversion -- since the entire House is up for re-election and Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) really likes his swanky Capitol office.
"This isn't about politics, it's about policy," declared House Republican campaign chief Pete Lund (R-Shelby Township), who might have trouble identifying public policy if it swatted him squarely in the behind.
The House GOP still can't figure out what to do, however. The problem is that they can only spend $90 million on tax cuts from the budget surplus -- which, even if you didn't major in math, is a whole lot less than their $1.4 billion in individual tax increases for 2011.
So the easiest and most likely way that they'll play the tax cut card is by lowering the income tax to 4.25 percent in July -- six months early. They could also give you more money than the current $3,700 personal exemption, but politically speaking, the income tax rollback is an easier sell. And the numbers appear to add up.
Bolger and company were hoping to offer up a whole grab bag of tax cut goodness to Michigan voters, but that didn't get worked into the budget deal. Of course, the House could still pass bills just to tell voters they did, even though they have little chance at becoming law.
Given the way Bolger's already neurotic spokesman, Ari Adler, was running around on Wednesday like a chicken with its head cut off, it's clear that the House GOP doesn't have a clear plan at all.
What they're banking on is that voters just generally believe that Democrats are tax-and-spend liberals and Republicans are paragons of fiscal responsibility. So Michiganders will take their $23 tax break and they'll like it, dammit -- and vote GOP to show their thanks.
We'll have to see if voters are as stupid as Republicans so obviously think they are.
Susan J. Demas is a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter here.