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AARP Rally Draws 1,100 to Capitol

A crowd of 1,100 seniors and other Michiganders attended an AARP Michigan rally March 15 at the State Capitol against the governor’s plan to raise taxes on seniors and the working poor by more than $1 billion in exchange for reduced services and a massive business tax cut.

AARP was joined by lawmakers and groups representing education, local government, labor, retirees and human services.

The theme of the two-hour rally was “It’s Not Fair,” a slogan chanted over and over by rally participants.

The governor’s budget and tax proposal increases taxes on individuals by $1.6 billion, reduces business taxes by $1.7 billion and makes deep cuts in quality-of-life programs and services, including public schools, universities, police and fire protection and local road maintenance.

“This is the biggest tax increase in the history of our state,” said Eric Schneidewind, president of AARP Michigan. “Is this budget going to make Michigan a place where you want to retire? Does this budget make Michigan a place any business would want to come to? It’s not fair!”

The governor’s plan increases taxes on individuals by 32 percent and cuts taxes on business by 86 percent, according to a study done by Public Sector Consultants Inc., a nonpartisan public policy think tank based in Lansing.

Pete Spadafore, of the Save Our Schools Coalition, commented that the $470 per pupil school aid cut in the governor’s plan “puts over 100 school districts in financial jeopardy.

“Will this unprecedented tax increase go to pay for better schools? No!” Spadafore said.

Michael Boulus, executive director of Presidents’ Council, State Universities of Michigan noted Michigan is one of four states that spends more on prisons than higher education. He added the 22 percent cut proposed by the governor is larger than the cumulative reduction for universities over the past decade.

Mary Pollock, representing the State Employee Retirees Association, said the pension tax, the elimination of the $2,300 exemption seniors claim on the state income tax and reduction of seniors’ Homestead Property Tax Credit would make it difficult for older Michiganders to pay their bills.

“We need these exemptions and credits to live the quality of life we were promised by Michigan’s government,” she said.

Doug Drake, a veteran budget and tax analyst who has worked in state government and as a private consultant, said of the governor’s plan: “This is the worst budget and tax policy I’ve seen in 35 years.”

The impact on Michigan’s poorest households in this proposal would be more than 10 times greater than the impact on the state’s wealthiest households, according to a study by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The rally was initiated by Mary Lee Woodward, an AARP member and retiree from Oxford, who objects to new taxes on her pension to pay for a business tax reduction and no guarantees of job creation.

“How is this shared sacrifice? If this tax proposal passes I could be at risk of losing my truck or my house,” Woodward said.