Michigan Democrats Strip Two Republicans of Committee Assignments

by Scott McClallen


After Michigan Republican senators blocked their Democrat counterparts’ plan to send state taxpayers $180 inflation-relief checks, Democrats stripped two lawmakers of their committee assignments.

Democrats relieved Sen. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, of his leadership position, and removed Bellino and Sen. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, from their committee assignments for voting against House Bill 4001 and blocking the ability to issue the $180 checks.

Bellino adjourned Senate Republicans on January 26 as Democrats were caucusing. The adjournment was a payback for House Democrats gagging House Republican speeches as they rammed through a vote for House Bill 4001. The delay and the “no” votes blocked an opportunity for Democrats to pass a tax plan to swiftly send to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The bill would boost the earned income tax credit and reduce the retirement tax. The bill aims to send $180 inflation relief checks, which would require a two-thirds majority vote to implement before April 18 to send the checks.

If approved with immediate effect, the bill would retroactively divert $800 million in general fund revenue from fiscal year 2022 fiscal to the Michigan Taxpayer Rebate Fund and divert up to $500 million annually to the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund to attract large business projects

The $800 million diversion would avoid triggering a 2015 law enacted by Republicans that mandates the personal income tax rate drop from 4.25% to 4.05% if the state’s general fund grows faster than the inflation rate in any year starting in 2023.

On Thursday, the Senate passed House Bill 4001 along party lines, 20-17, far from the two-thirds threshold. Republicans voted against the measure, arguing that permanent tax relief is better than a one-time $180 check, which would equate to about 50 cents per day.

Lauwers said in a statement that removing lawmakers from positions because of their vote is an “abhorrent abuse of power.”

The bill, along with Whitmer’s proposed $79 billion budget, would spend all but $250 million of the state’s $9 billion projected surplus.

Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said Republicans were stripped of positions for delaying the tax vote, which aimed to avoid an income tax break for all Michiganders.

“This scheme is nothing more than a brazen attempt to prevent the automatic income tax rollback in order to fund the Democrats even bigger, and more expensive, future spending bonanza,” Runestad said in a statement. “I will not stand silently by as our governor swindles Michiganders out of their hard-earned dollars and irresponsibly blows through more than $9 billion that isn’t hers.”

Democrats couldn’t garner enough votes to enact immediate effect, so they postponed the vote. Instead, Democrats considered Senate Resolution 12, which aims to remove the requirement for a record roll call vote to give immediate effect, and instead use a voice vote. This change would allow Democrats to give the bill immediate effect, despite not having enough votes.

The Senate could take up the bill again on Tuesday.

Runestad said that Democrats aim to block tax relief for every Michigander.

“Michiganders were promised the income tax rate rollback when Gov. Granholm signed her tax hike in 2007; that never happened,” Runestad said in a statement. “Last year, Gov. Whitmer vetoed bipartisan tax relief that was sent to her desk. Now, state law is set to initiate an automatic income tax cut and Gov. Whitmer and the Democrats are pulling every trick they can to stop it in order to pillage the state’s $9.2 billion surplus to grow the size of state government.”

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Joe Bellino” by Senator Joe Bellino. Photo “Dan Lauwers” by State Senator Dan Lauwers. Background Photo “Michigan Capitol” by Catherine Ottarson. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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