Whitmer May Veto Recent GOP Tax Proposals
Ms. Whitmer was asked by reporters Friday if she would veto a fuel tax pause that has passed the House but not yet the Senate, as well as if she plans to veto a $2.5 billion tax cut plan that sits on her desk in SB 768.
When asked about the state fuel tax pause – Ms. Whitmer has asked for a federal fuel tax pause – the governor touted the $400 refund checks set to go to every insured driver in the state along with her tax cut proposals to repeal the so-called retirement tax, and to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
She said any proposal needs to be laser focused on truly helping those who are struggling, and she thought her proposals would do that. Additionally, she said she has reminded the Legislature they need to negotiate a balanced budget.
"It won’t have lived up to any of those things I just said, so you can draw your own conclusions," Ms. Whitmer said of if she would veto the fuel tax pause.
Ms. Whitmer dodged a question on what she plans to do with SB 768, which would lower the personal income tax rate from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent, reduce the age for receiving an exemption on retirement income to age 62 if they qualify after exercising the standard deduction and provide a $500 per child tax credit.
The bill was presented on March 7. Ms. Whitmer said Friday she wasn’t positive her office had received the bill and that it would do its due diligence, as is the process, before deciding if the bill should be signed or vetoed.
On March 3, after the Legislature gave final approval to the plan, Ms. Whitmer sent a letter to House and Senate leadership asking to begin negotiations on both the budget and in finding agreement on potential tax cuts. In it she outlined her opposition to the Republican plans being put forth while touting her own proposals, which GOP leadership has so far responded to with a cool reception.
"I have serious concerns that the legislation passed by the House and Senate this week does not meet that standard. In its current form, this bill is fiscally irresponsible, unsustainable, and could increase costs for Michigan families at a time when they can least afford it," Ms. Whitmer wrote. "This legislation will create a massive, ongoing, multi-billion-dollar budget deficit. This would force the Legislature to either raise taxes on Michigan families, or make deep and painful cuts to public schools, road repairs, and police and fire protection."
DHHS Changes Quarantine Recs for Schools, Public
The Department of Health and Human Services released new quarantine and isolation requirements for those testing positive for or exposed to COVID-19 on Friday, putting less of an emphasis on strict quarantines and a shift toward masking.
Additionally, schools must no longer report confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases to the state.
Under the recommendations, those testing positive for COVID-19 should isolate for five days, then wear a well fitted mask for five days, as long as symptoms have improved (or if they never developed).
For those exposed, the recommendations move toward personal/household contacts and community contacts, rather than using the term close contact.
If someone is exposed through a household or personal contact, DHHS recommends they wear a mask for 10 days and avoid high-risk activities. Those individuals can test as well between day three and day seven of exposure.
For those exposed through the community, DHHS says they should monitor symptoms and still consider wearing a mask for 10 days even if symptoms do not develop.
"We are updating our guidance to reflect the fact the state has entered a post-surge, recovery phase," Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive at DHHS, said in a statement. "As we move through the phases of our COVID-19 response our recommendations will be updated to reflect the current status of transmission, while continuing to prioritize public health and promote health and wellness for all communities. We continue to strongly urge all residents ages 5 and older get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and to get boosted when eligible as the vaccine continues to be our best defense against the virus."
On Friday, the state reported 1,819 cases for the last two days, bringing the seven-day average down to 745. The seven-day average for positivity as of Thursday was 3.8 percent.
Special Election Wins May Effect House Speaker Race
These wins are for terms ending January 1, 2023, should these candidates go on to win in the May general special election. They’ll also need to run in the standard August-November races if they hope to keep the seat for a full term.
Republican winners on March 1 included Terence Mekoski in the 36th House district, Robert Regan in the 74th and Mike Harris in the 43rd.
Currently in the running for, potentially, speakership among Republicans is Rep. Matt Hall of Marshall, Rep. Sarah Lightner of Springport, Rep. Andrew Fink of Hillsdale and Rep. Matt Maddock of Milford.
Mr. Hall is considered the leading candidate currently with a wealth of caucus support behind him. Some, however, are looking to the recent rise in Trump-backed candidates that are running for state office as trouble for Mr. Hall given that Mr. Maddock has sway over that wing of the party.
Sources familiar with the situation said that of the three who won in the special primary, Mr. Regan and Mr. Mekoski are likely to back Mr. Maddock in his run while Mr. Harris would be behind Mr. Hall.
The candidates in question, though, are remaining tightlipped about who they would support. And notably, the candidates must run and win in the general election in November 2022 to be able to vote for GOP leader. Mr. Regan specifically carries significant doubts on if he would be able to win in the new district were he to win the regular primary in August.
While Mr. Harris gave Mr. Hall a shout out as being a big help during his campaign, he said he was "keeping his powder dry right now" when asked if he supported the lawmaker for leadership.
"He has been a huge help, but I don’t know any of the leadership candidates very well yet and my goal is to go in and meet everybody and see where I should put my support," Mr. Harris said.
Mr. Regan made similar remarks when asked shortly after his win.
He said that he was aware of the leadership race, naming that he knew of Mr. Hall and Mr. Maddock specifically, but that he didn’t know enough about either candidate yet to decide where to levy his support.
"I haven’t been approached yet but I’m sure I will be," Mr. Regan said. "I know there’s a race for speaker going on but, quite frankly, my sole focus has been working so hard on this election that I haven’t really given it a whole lot of thought."
Mr. Mekoski also indicated that Mr. Hall, Mr. Maddock and Mr. Fink all called to congratulate him on his win earlier this month but that he hadn’t given much thought to the leadership race outside of those well-wishes, telling Gongwer News Service: "I haven’t even looked into it."
As of last check, Mr. Hall boasted more than a dozen leadership endorsements, Mr. Fink had at least two and both Ms. Lightner’s and Mr. Maddock’s counts are unknown.
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