MI House Republicans to refocus after income tax defeat

The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich.


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Legislature is preparing for a two-week break that coincides with many schools’ spring break. That may be a chance to reset the new legislative session that has gotten off to an uneven start.

It has been more than a month since an unusual defeat marked the beginning for the new House leadership team in Lansing, but the reverberations from that loss are still close to the surface.

Early on, it was clear that the new Republican leadership was intent on getting rid of the state’s income tax. It was the first bill they introduced. The bill was ultimately modified to remove the complete elimination of the tax, and instead roll it back to 3.9 percent from the current 4.25 percent.

The measure failed, a rather uncharacteristic outcome from a leadership sponsored initiative from the majority party.

“It was our first vote. It was the first vote right out of the shoot with obviously a new crop of legislators that hadn’t experienced the process yet,” state Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo, said. “New leadership. I think that played into it.”

Iden voted for the rollback, but 12 of his fellow Republicans did not.

That, along with Democrats voting no, was enough to defeat the measure — but how did that happen?

“I think maybe the speaker thought he had the votes for it to pass, however there was a segment of our caucus that just wanted to go on record and take a vote even if it put some people possibly in a bad position,” said state Rep. Chris Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids Township.

He is one of the 12 Republicans that voted no and says he has no reservations.

“I was very comfortable with my vote. I was always prepared to vote no on that because I really believe down deep we’ve got to come up with some structural cuts in the budget,” he said.

Iden says that is understandable, but he still holds out hope for some type of tax relief this session.

“One of the contentions that the folks that voted no on the Republican side of the aisle was they wanted to see where those cuts were going to come from. And I think that that’s a very fair question, and it’s always the chicken or the egg. What do you put first? Do you put forth the tax cut first and then back into the budget or do you do the budgeting first and then figure out what dollars you have available and then do the cut, and then do the tax rollback or tax cut? And I think that we’re just going to do it the other way this time,” he said.

There is talk that a smaller income tax rollback might be considered. There are also plans in the Senate that would come up with other mechanisms to reduce income tax.

But for now, the spring break may be just what the House members need. When they come back, the focus will be on the budget. Tax decreases, if any, likely will have to wait until later in the session.