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Michigan Taxpayers Alliance Updates

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Democrats behaving...responsibly?

Political parties are coalitions of groups of voters and, for Michigan's Democratic Party, no part of their coalition is more sacred than unionized government employees. Democrats faithfully support any government pay or benefit increase - no matter what the cost to taxpayers - to prop up the golden goose that rewards them with rich campaign contributions.

So it's worth noting when an elected Democrat suddenly stands up to these government unions, looks them in the eye, and says, "Enough is enough!" Credit must be given to two such Democrats.

State Senator Mickey Switalski (D-Roseville) introduced legislation recently approved by the Senate requiring school districts to hold school board elections in August or November at the same time as other elections - saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Public school unions insist on May elections because so few voters participate that the unions can swamp the ballot and ensure that winning school board candidates put unions ahead of school kids.

Congrats to Democrat Senator Mickey Switalski for putting kids and taxpayers first. Disappointingly, Senator Switalksi did not get all of his reforms approved by the Senate. The full Republican controlled Senate stripped out portions of Switalski's bill that would have required tax and bond elections to also be on normal election days. In addition, Switalski offered amendments to cap the pay of school superintendents at levels below the governor's pay, and to cap school districts' administrative costs at 28% of their budget. Those amendments were defeated.

Why didn't the Republican Senate support all of Switalski's reform proposals? Hard to say. Keep in mind that the MI Education Association is one tough, smart union and they always make sure to financially support just enough Republicans to keep most reforms from becoming law.

Switalski's main bill now goes to the Democratic House where it faces an uncertain future.

Another Democrat brave enough to challenge government unions is State Rep. Tim Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe). Rep. Bledsoe courageously challenged his own Democrat Party in an April 16th Detroit Free Press editorial:

"...where is the center of gravity of the Michigan Democratic Party? Are we, as some allege, nothing more than the political arm of powerful public employee unions? Are we incapable of undertaking any meaningful reforms to make government less costly that are opposed by those unions?

Recently, a lobbyist for a major public employee union sent an e-mail to a colleague who had inquired about his organization's support for cost-saving reforms. "Forget reform," the lobbyist responded. "Just raise taxes."

Here is the conundrum: We are at the point in Michigan where public employees, and particularly teachers, earn more than the average private-sector worker, work a shorter year (10 months in the case of teachers), and enjoy superior health care benefits. Most retain a cherished defined-benefit retirement system.

Should we raise taxes on those who, on average, have less (and have suffered a greater financial demise) to sustain the privileges of those who have more? Is this what it means to be a Democrat?...”

Rep. Bledsoe is asking his Democratic colleagues questions that must be answered.

With new studies showing that the unfunded liability for public school teacher pensions is now approaching $930 billion nationally, more and more independent voters and even traditional liberals are asking when enough is enough.

Stephen Henderson is a columnist and editorial page editor for the liberal Detroit Free Press. Yet he wrote in his April 18 Sunday column about the incredibly generous health care benefits that public school teachers receive at the expense of taxpayers and children:

"...it's hard to find justification for the fact that so many teachers are paying no health premiums -- especially if their great deal comes at the expense of our children...

...But if teachers there were required to pay 5% or 10% of their health premiums, it wouldn't affect a single kid.

No doubt, this is a time for sacrifice in Michigan. But our challenge is to make those sacrifices while preserving investments in our future. That means kids and education. They're the key to making this state thrive again in 10 or 20 years....

...But the MEA has a chance to be a little magnanimous here, to show some leadership in the vein of sacrifice. Instead of standing by watching school districts gut critical services to kids, why not offer at least to soften the blow by accepting more realistic health plans? In most districts, even a 5% or 10% contribution from teachers (still well below what private-sector folks are used to) could make a big difference..."

When some elected Democrats and liberal editorial boards are starting to support taxpayers and students instead of kneeling before government employee union overlords, we know that real reform is possible. Standing in the way are most of the Democratic Party and just enough Republicans that are on the take with government unions.

Pay attention, friends - election day isn't far away. Reward those lawmakers of either party who are standing up for you, your family, and for school children. And punish those politicians of ANY party that are standing in the way.

I'll keep you posted,

Leon Drolet
MI Taxpayers Alliance

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Your congressman's "RePork card" is here...

Dear Taxpayer,

The federal government took your family's money and spent $150,000 for the restoration of Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York. Did your congressperson vote for this waste of your money?

The Club For Growth has issued a "RePork Card" that ranks every congressman on how they voted on 68 key amendments that would have eliminated millions of dollars of wasteful spending from the 2009 federal budget.

Some of the targeted pork barrel legislation this year includes:

• $325,000 for the Institute for Seafood Studies in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
• $250,000 for the Monroe County Farmer's Market in Tompkinsville, Kentucky.
• $100,000 for the Myrtle Beach Conference Center in South Carolina.
• $90,000 for the Commercial Kitchen Business Incubator project in Watsonville, California.
• $1 million for potato research in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

What was your congressman's grade?

Congratulations to Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland) for earning the only 'A' grade of all 15 Michigan congress members.

Thaddeous McCotter (R-Livonia) earned a 'B+' and Vern Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids) received a 'B-'. The only other sorta passing-ish grade went to Mike Rogers (R-Howell) who received a D+.

Every other Michigan congressperson received an 'F' grade for not supporting amendments to cut the majority of the pork. Check out the entire report card here.

Another pay cut for you (unless you are a government employee)

Governor Granholm has spent the past week working the media circuit trying to sell her $550 million tax increase to the public. Granholm's proposed extension of the state sales tax to services such as hair cuts, oil changes, and carpet cleaning is equal to yet another pay cut for most every Michigan family.

But Granholm's proposed budget does include a bright spot - if you work for the state government. Unionized state employees are scheduled to receive a 3% pay increase again this year.

How does your income look this year?

Leon Drolet
MI Taxpayers Alliance

Monday, February 1, 2010

Michael Moore, Governor Granholm, ice tea and you

Michael Moore, the left-wing filmmaker whose credits include "Roger and Me" and "Capitalism: A Love Story" owes you money. You see, his film "Capitalism" was recently approved for a generous taxpayer subsidy from the State of Michigan's treasury. If you haven't seen the film, Moore attacks the taxpayer bailout of banks, portraying these subsidies as fleecing the American taxpayers for the benefit of the wealthy. You know, rich guys like Michael Moore.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy uncovered the information about Michael Moore's hypocritical personal taxpayer bailout:

"Moore isn't just any filmmaker. He is a current member of the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council, a state organ created to advise the Michigan Film Office, which is responsible for approving applications for Michigan's film incentive program. I do not believe it strains credulity to suggest that Moore's very presence on the council may have led to the film office approving special tax treatment for his work...

...Moore's acceptance of the Michigan film incentive subsidy is troubling because he has grown wealthy railing against corporations and capitalist institutions - such as Wall Street - for enriching themselves at the expense of the little guy and taxpayers.

In the trailer for "Capitalism: A Love Story," Moore shows up on Wall Street and says, "...we're here to get the money back for the American people..." This is in reference to the high-profile bailout of big banks (and other institutions) by the federal government. By accepting a state subsidy, Moore, who shows disdain for private, for-profit businesses raiding the pocketbooks of Americans, engages in this very practice himself.

Even more galling is that Moore is set to feed on Michigan's beleaguered taxpayers.”

Michael D. LaFaive, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Protest in Lansing this Wednesday evening!

Governor Granholm presents her eighth 'State of the State' address this Wednesday, February 3rd. The MI Taxpayers Alliance will be outside participating in an taxpayer protest of Granholm and the legislature's failed economic policies. The event will also feature a 'State of the Citizen' address that will compete directly with Granholm's speech - except we will be outside the Capitol Building.

Join us by heading to the Capitol Building in Lansing this Wednesday evening. The protest and event starts at 6:30. Please dress VERY warm (there will be hot chocolate) and arrive in time to find parking near the Capitol Building. Bring a protest sign (glow sticks will be provided). Details are on the MTA website at www.mitaxpayers.org.

See you Wednesday at the "State of the Citizen Iced Tea Party Protest"!

Leon Drolet
MI Taxpayers Alliance

Monday, September 21, 2009

House Reneging on Tax Hikes?


This week is D-Day for the coming state budget: a balanced state budget is constitutionally required by the end of this week.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) stunned the Lansing establishment and angered Governor Granholm when they announced that they had agreed to balance the 2010 budget with federal stimulus money and absolutely NO TAX INCREASES. Of any sort. No "revenue enhancements", no "loophole closings", and no fee hikes. In fact, state spending would actually be cut - for real.

But this afternoon, The Detroit News is reporting online that the "no tax hikes" agreement is in jeopardy.

Friends, I don't do this very often, but I am going to do it now: I am asking you to please call your state senator and state representative. I know that you get these kinds of requests from grassroots groups all the time. Most people just hope that other people will call.

Please take just ten minutes to look up the contact number for your two state lawmakers and call them. Please tell them to balance the state budget by cutting spending with NO tax increases or "revenue enhancements" of any kind.

This will take ten minutes. Here are the links to the contact info for your state representative and your state senator.

Again, I won't ask you to do this more than two or three times in a year. These two calls are the most important calls you can make to your state lawmakers this year. Please.

Here is a clip from this afternoon's Detroit News update:

"Dillon: House may have to propose tax increases for state

Detroit News Lansing Bureau m

House Speaker Andy Dillon said today the House may look at tax increases before the end of the week if there are spending targets that are too difficult to meet before the Sept. 30 budget deadline.

Dillon said after a joint appearance at the Detroit Economic Club breakfast with Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, that he's especially worried about Community Health, Human Services and revenue sharing.

The Redford Township Democrat said it should be evident by 5 p.m. Tuesday -- the deadline for conference committees to pass department budgets -- whether there will be a problem garnering enough House votes to approve certain budgets.

"We may look at targeted revenues before the end of this week," he said.

Asked which tax or fee increases he was considering, Dillon said: "I have a list of what my tax group has put together that we could get the most votes for," but he declined to elaborate.

The speaker said passing a continuation budget for those departments in which spending targets can't be reached "is a possibility," but one he wasn't interested in exercising before taking a shot at getting the entire budget passed. He said voting on budgets could begin as early as Wednesday, but would more likely happen Thursday and Friday."

Ten minutes. Two calls. You may be surprised how much it may help.

Thank you. I'll keep you posted.

Leon Drolet
Director, MI Taxpayers Alliance

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Final battle brewing...


It's happening right now: as tax revenues plummet, the government class is digging in for the battle of their lives to protect their privileged status in Michigan's economy. And politicians are now being forced to take sides with either taxpayers or with public employee unions.

Detroit in the eye of the storm...

Few government reformers have taken on a more impossible task than Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, who is trying to restore fiscal and functional sanity to the national disgrace that is the Detroit Public Schools. Now, Bobb is being sued by a defiant Detroit School Board determined to protect the status quo that they created and have benefited from.

Kudos to Attorney General Mike Cox, who will defend Bobb against the School Board's retaliatory suit.

Detroit Mayor Bing, meanwhile, is facing a fierce, daily battle with Detroit's unionized city employees, who believe they should be immune from the City's 22% unemployment rate, plummeting population, and evaporating tax base. These unions are more highly compensated than employees in similar cities (according to a Detroit Free Press study), but they won't concede a penny in adjusted benefits or pay.

Meanwhile, in the suburbs...

Has your pay been increasing these last few years? The union representing the professors at Oakland University think that a 10% pay hike over the past three years wasn't good enough. These professors (all public employees paid with your tax dollars) are preparing to strike today. They received raises of between 3% and 3.25% each year since the last contract approval in 2006, but their union isn't satisfied and wants even more.

Most students and their financially struggling families have experienced big income decreases these last few years, while tuition has gone up and up. These students, who already paid their tuition this semester, will likely be without professors in their classrooms this week.

Lansing's big battle...

Less than a month is left before the state is required to have a budget in place, Stunningly, Governor Granholm has yet to even propose a budget. Senate Republicans have actually proposed and passed a balanced budget with NO tax hikes. Granholm's proposal? Bring in "mediators" to coax Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop into allowing another round of tax hikes.

And public employee unions are weighing in. A new organization of public employee unions and social service organizations is urging Granholm to raise taxes on citizens again - by $3 billion - with increased business taxes, re-instating the death tax, and promoting a graduated income tax.

But the tax eaters don't really expect to win their $3 billion is tax hikes this year. They know that this year's state budget is merely a preliminary skirmish before next year's really big battle. This year's budget is important, but federal stimulus money will help conceal much of the state's structural deficit for one more year. Next year's "budget crisis" will be more than double or triple the problem of this year's state overspending - and the public employees know it. Their strategy is to use this year's budget to dig in and prepare for next year's major battle.

Citizens are catching on...

There is more and more mainstream media coverage of the extraordinary pay and benefits that the government class - public employees and politicians - receive compared to citizens. Check out this recent Free Press article.

Democrat House Speaker Andy Dillon's modest proposal to address the cost of public employee health benefits was an unexpected shot across the bow of the public employee unions. The enormous attention that Dillon's proposal attracted from both the media and the government class is testament to the growing understanding that something must give: either taxes must be hiked (again), services to citizens slashed, or the cost of providing services must be reduced by right-sizing the extraordinary benefits provided to the government-class.

Dig in, friends...

Next year will be unbelievable compared to this year. The impact of plummeting property values will finally start kicking in for local governments and public schools. The state budget will implode under unsustainable spending without increased federal subsidies.

And the government class knows all this. They are preparing to defend every pay hike, paid holiday, benefit, perk, and privilege they get at your expense. And they will fight with everything they have.

The future of Michigan will be at stake like never before. Watch your local and state lawmakers. Accept no excuses. This next year - starting with the current skirmish in Lansing - will absolutely force politicians to take sides as never before.

Whose side are your elected officials on?

Leon Drolet
Director, MI Taxpayers Alliance

Friday, August 14, 2009

"I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a tax increase today"

Governor Jennifer Granholm has a promise for you. She promises to lower taxes in 2011 if you let her raise taxes today. It is a PROMISE, you know, part of a deal. She just needs that tax hike today and then she will lower taxes r-e-e-e-e-al soon - like in 2011. It’s a promise.

From the front page of today's edition of The Detroit News:

Governor backs taxes to help erase deficit
Lansing -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm is proposing an entertainment tax, another 25-cent boost in the cigarette tax and a penny levy on bottled water to help erase next year's budget deficit.

Sources closest to budget negotiations said Thursday the plan -- which would raise about $685 million a year -- also would slightly reduce the state's film tax credit and an income tax break for low-income families. The governor would phase out the widely unpopular 22 percent surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax over three years starting in 2011.

Does Jennifer Granholm have a track record of keeping her promises? Remember this promise by the Governor after raising your income tax and business taxes in 2007:
"The most important thing I learned (this year) is I'm not ever going to raise taxes again. It;s too hard. It's too impossible. Especially in light of our economy and what we've been through. I just don't think there's anybody who's interested in proceeding down that path again."

- Governor Jennifer Granholm to the Associated Press, December 2007

Meanwhile, Granholm is still fighting against any actual reform or cost containment in the state budget.

House Speaker Andy Dillon stunned Lansing observers last month when he announced that he would seek to reduce the cost of government employee health care by creating one pool for all government employees in Michigan. The purpose of the pool was to seek administrative savings and right-size health benefits to match benefit costs in the private sector more closely.

The teachers union declared "war" (their word) on Dillon's proposal and Granholm has been non-supportive as well.

You may recall that the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance hasn't exactly been one of Dillon's biggest fans after his role in the 2007 tax hikes. But Dillon may finally realize that we cannot continue to afford two Michigans: one Michigan consisting of prosperous government employees who enjoy solid job security, high wages, regular pay hikes, and benefits that cost twice as much as the benefits of private-sector citizens; and another Michigan consisting of private-sector taxpayers who pay to support the government class.

Governor Granholm has been consistent in supporting the government-class at the expense of the citizens. Maybe Speaker Dillon is switching to your side.

Friends, this is a great time to call your lawmakers again. Both the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans have passed budgets that contain real cuts and NO tax hikes. But Granholm refuses to sign off on these budget cuts and refuses to support Dillon's proposal for government-employee benefits cost control.

Will the GOP lawmakers stand firm behind their "no tax hikes" budgets, or collapse again like they did during the 2007 tax hikes? Consider this quote from Republican Majority Leader Mike Bishop's spokesperson in today's same Detroit News story:

General tax increases "are a nonstarter for us. But we understand this is a process of negotiations and compromises will have to be made."

So please, just take a few minutes to call your state representative and state senator and tell them to:

1. Oppose any new tax hikes in this year’s budget
2. Support Speaker Dillon's efforts to equalize the cost of benefits for government workers with those of private-sector workers

Not sure how to contact your legislators? Find out who represents you in the state House here and in the state Senate here.

A quick call to your lawmakers will only take minutes. It could end up saving millions of tax dollars.

Leon Drolet
Director, MI Taxpayers Alliance

Monday, July 13, 2009

Protest Obama TOMORROW

Dear Taxpayer,

President Barack Obama is coming to Macomb County tomorrow, Tuesday the 14th, to give a speech at Macomb Community College's south campus. The Macomb County Republican Party is organizing a protest to express dissatisfaction with Mr. Obama's crusade to bankrupt the country and leave the bill at our children's feet. We want to let Mr. Obama know that we've had it with his reckless war on the American taxpayer.

The Michigan Taxpayers Alliance will be joining concerned citizens in protesting Obama's destructive economic policies from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM at Macomb Community College's south campus at 12 Mile and Hayes in Warren. We will meet at 12:30 PM in the parking lot of the Bunert Rd entrance on the west side of the campus.

Please consider sparing a few hours to let our president know that you don't approve of his performance. I encourage you to bring a sign - you're welcome to be creative with your message but please keep it tasteful. We want Mr. Obama to understand that the people who oppose him are real people - informed, united and serious.

Leon Drolet
Director, MI Taxpayers Alliance