What we're talking about

Breaking news, legislative updates and the facts.

February 2014: Legislative Update

Income Inequality Stalls Economic Recovery

Economic recovery is helping those at the top, while the bottom 90% continue to fall—and it’s not a coincidence. Policy makers in Lansing contribute to a state and national problem of stagnated or reduced economic power for working families, while the top 10% see increased wealth.

Over the past few years the Republican-led legislature has passed laws to shift the costs of health care and pensions onto workers leaving them with less money to spend in their communities. At the same time, they shifted a huge $ 1.4 Billion tax burden from corporations to some of our most vulnerable citizens—seniors and the working poor. Eliminating tax exemptions for pensions is a huge hit on disposable income that would otherwise have been spent in the local economy. Reducing EITC for the working poor simply made it impossible for some to keep reliable transportation used to keep a job. Sometimes that little extra goes to school clothes for the kids—now it’s gone. This August they will put a measure on the ballot to cut the Personal Property Tax (PPT) by another $1.2 Billion. This is taxes that corporations pay on machinery and equipment. The money is currently used to finance local government and schools.

Passing anti-worker legislation like Public Act 348, and 349 right-to-work laws and Public Act 53, prohibiting union dues collection were simply political retribution. They are designed to weaken the workers’ organizations that fight for higher wages, better benefits and dignity on the job. These laws make it more difficult for workers to come together to negotiate for better contracts and they make it more difficult to raise their voices in support of candidates who will fight for the needs of working families.

Those in power are using public office to stay in power. Passing SB 661 is clearly an example of this misuse of public office (see Snyder Breaks “Greater Government Transparency” Promise). Doubling campaign contributions only benefits wealthy special interests. The politicians who benefit from this largess are then under even more pressure to write laws that stack the deck against ordinary working people.

2014 is the year for a critical decision: Which way will Michigan go? Will we continue the path of economic inequality, or will we change directions to create an economy that works for everyone? The greatest influence we have is our ability to get involved in elections. Your vote makes a difference, but is not enough; You need to be a part of helping turn the balance of power so workers get a fair share of economic gains. Remember, that this is one of the issues at stake when it comes to educating our union brothers and sisters.

Snyder Breaks “Greater Government Transparency” Promise

Over the holidays when he hoped we wouldn’t notice, Governor Snyder signed SB 661, introduced by Senator Meekhoff (R), which gives even more power to the 1%. The bill doubles the maximum campaign contributions allowed by state election law. Who worries about exceeding these limits? Only those who can afford to give to the limits already, the wealthiest donors. 99.992% of all donors never reach the current contribution limits, meaning the bill is clearly written for the .008% who donate big. The bill also ties campaign contribution limits to the Consumer Price Index to adjust for inflation. It’s telling that working women and men earning minimum wage haven’t seen a raise in 5 years, let alone get a cost of living adjustment.

Over and over again you’ve seen Governor Snyder’s failed promises of “greater government transparency,” “more and better jobs” and other campaign rhetoric. This bill was rushed through the legislature like many others and is now another law that supports the status quo. Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press, who endorsed Snyder questions the governor’s trustworthiness. In Henderson’s words, “it’s difficult for me to see how Snyder can reclaim any semblance of openness. Forget about the instances where a radical Legislature has forced him into uncomfortable positions. If Snyder so willingly trashes ideals he claimed for himself, he simply can’t be trusted.“

Snyder Pushes ALEC Bill for Balanced Budget Amendment

During his State of the State address on January 16, Governor Snyder asked the legislature to approve a resolution calling for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would require a balanced federal budget. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing corporate bill mill, is pushing this type of legislation across the country and Governor Snyder and others in his party are pandering to their interests. A balanced budget sounds like a good idea, but the reality is that the U.S. economy doesn’t work that way.

Proponents argue that households have to live on a balanced budget, and so then, should government. These are the same who argue government should run more like a business. The fact is both households and business borrow money to purchase a home, car or new machinery. They don’t have a “balanced budget.”

A Balanced Budget Amendment would make recessions deeper and longer and would harm Social Security and other retirement and insurance funds. We should work to reduce deficits, but requiring a balanced budget would create more harm.

This ALEC legislation passed the Senate along party lines and is now in the House Financial Liability Committee. You can join the national movement against ALEC at www.standuptoalec.org.

Get involved with the Michigan AFL-CIO

Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and bring economic justice to the workplace - and you can too.