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Opinion: Michigan Republicans put residents first with tax cut bills

The first pieces of legislation introduced in a session serve as benchmarks of the priorities held by the caucus introducing the bills. In the first week of the 102nd Legislature, Michigan House Republicans introduced and enrolled a plan for immediate tax relief via House Bills 4008 and 4009.

Why choose the issue of tax relief to serve as our opening salvo in the now Democratically-controlled House and Senate? Because hardworking Michigan residents, seniors and retirees cannot wait to get the financial relief they deserve.

At the same time that the price of eggs, milk and seemingly every other item in the grocery store is going through roof, we have $9 billion in surplus state funds. In Lansing, we need to look at every way we can give Michigan residents a break when inflation is taking bigger and bigger chunks out of their wallets.

The Republican plan, focused on immediate relief for everyone, stands in stark contrast to the Democrats, whose plan picks which retirees get relief and delays the effects of such relief until as late as 2026.

The first pillar of our tax plan is immediate financial relief for Michigan seniors. Under Rep. Andrew Beeler’s HB 4008, joint-filing seniors 67 years and older would be able to deduct up to $80,000 of all income from the state income tax.

The plan would further enable joint-filing seniors aged 62 to 66 — retirees who currently have no similar deduction available to them — to deduct $40,000 of any retirement income from their state income tax returns. Crucially, for those on fixed incomes, these new deduction amounts would increase with the rate of inflation.

On the other hand, the Democrats' plan leaves many seniors out. Their proposal is convoluted by an elaborate phase-in timeline, providing only limited financial relief primarily directed at those receiving large public pensions.

The second pillar of our tax plan is Rep. Bill Schuette’s legislation to expand the earned income tax credit (EITC) for Michigan workers. HB 4009 would increase the EITC from 6% to 20% of the equivalent federal credit and make it retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022.

It would put an average of approximately $500 back in the pockets of many hardworking Michigan families this year. The Democrats' proposal to expand the EITC would not have an impact until 2024 — delaying the tax relief Michigan residents need right now.

The prior Legislature approved an increase to the tax credit that would already be in effect, but the governor vetoed the plan, preferring to punt until after the election. Residents shouldn’t pay the price for the governor’s political games — so let’s pass our plan and give tax relief as soon as possible.

The third pillar of our tax plan is the income tax rollback. Due to a record increase in state funds and action taken by the Republican Legislature in 2015, an automatic income tax cut is likely to be triggered for the upcoming year. Reducing our state income tax would give every Michigan resident more of their money back in their wallet.

This rollback would directly impact residents’ ability to pay for the rising prices of raising a family in our state. So far, Democrats in Lansing have been coy on whether they support protecting this tax cut. The Republican stance is clear: We want Michigan residents to keep more of what they make.

This week, we expect to hear Gov. Gretchen Whitmer call for bipartisan efforts to improve life for Michigan residents in her State of the State address. With these three elements of the Republican tax plan, we are actively advocating for tax relief that would help residents grapple with rampant inflation and improve our state’s economic competitiveness.

The clock is ticking. We hope the governor and Democrats in Lansing will play ball.

State Rep. Andrew Beeler, R-Port Huron, a Naval Academy graduate, represents the 64th state House District and serves as the assistant Republican leader in the Michigan House of Representatives. State Rep. Bill G. Schuette, R-Midland, is in his first term representing the 95th District in Michigan’s House of Representatives.