When it comes to Gov. Rick Snyder's 'shared sacrifice,' let's not forget business
One major constituency that largely escapes Gov. Rick Snyder’s call for “shared sacrifice” to fix state finances is business.
Snyder’s budget proposes a massive shift in tax burden from businesses to individuals. His tax plan cuts business taxes 86 percent while raising personal income taxes 32 percent by 2013.
In addition, 95,000 businesses that now file Michigan Business Tax returns no longer will be subject to the despised MBT under Snyder’s proposal to dump the tax and replace it with a 6 percent corporate income tax.
Of the 136,000 businesses that file MBT returns, only 41,000, or 30 percent, would do so under Snyder’s proposal, Treasury Department spokesman Terry Stanton told me.
Only “C” corporations — large private or public companies with stockholders — would be subject to the corporate income tax.
Snyder argues that his plan to tax only C corporations inserts a measure of fairness into the tax code.
That’s because owners of smaller partnerships, limited liability corporations and sole proprietorships are taxed twice, once by the MBT and again on their business income on their personal tax returns.
Snyder has a point there. But where his justification for business tax cuts falls apart is in his contention that easing the tax burden on businesses will “enable all businesses and industries, large and small, to grow and create jobs.”
Republicans have been making this claim since at least the days of Ronald Reagan, but there’s little evidence that cutting taxes leads to job growth.
Michigan cut taxes throughout much of the past decade, but still lost nearly 850,000 jobs.
I know — you’re dubious of the claim that Michigan cut taxes.
But the state tax burden—taxes as a percentage of personal income — has fallen from 9.5 percent to 7 percent over the past decade, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.
Michigan was the only state in the country to experience a general fund revenue decline between 2000 and 2009, according to state Treasurer Andy Dillon.
State business tax revenues have fallen 15 percent since fiscal 2008, the year the MBT was enacted.
And Michigan’s business tax climate, which includes sales, personal income, business and unemployment taxes, jumped to 17th last year from 28th in 2006, according to the conservative Tax Foundation.
That included a period in which Michigan’s personal income tax rate jumped from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent and the MBT, with its 22 percent surcharge, was implemented.
The MBT should be replaced, if for no other reason than to simplify what is an unnecessarily complex tax.
But it’s apparently not the jobs killer that Snyder and many lawmakers claim.
Michigan posted the biggest improvement of any state in job market conditions last year, according to a study released Monday by Gallup Inc.
Gallup, which conducts the well-known Gallup Poll, attributed Michigan’s performance mainly to manufacturing’s resurgence.
Jobs and state economic growth depend on many factors, including a growing national economy, quality of the education system and vibrant cities that attract young talent.
Snyder’s budget proposes deep cuts to higher education, municipal revenue sharing and other things that can stimulate economic growth so he can give businesses a huge tax cut.
Is this the time to give businesses a big tax break? That doesn’t sound much like shared sacrifice.
E-mail Rick Haglund at firstname.lastname@example.org.