Taxes, driver debt, prevailing wages atop legislative agenda

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — At the onset of 2018, Michigan lawmakers have a growing to-do list — led by talk of cutting taxes, wiping clean driver fee debt and improving mental health services.

Also top of mind, at least for Republicans, is repealing a law that mandates higher “prevailing” wages on state-financed construction projects. Democrats, meanwhile, want to boost spending on schools and infrastructure, address water-quality problems and hold hearings on Michigan State University’s handling of a sports doctor who sexually abused young female athletes.

The legislative session resumed this past week. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will soon outline his agenda in his annual State of the State address and budget proposal.

A look at issues legislators are prioritizing:

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TAXES

Snyder’s call to quickly keep intact Michigan’s personal tax exemption — which he says was inadvertently eliminated due to how the state tax code is linked to the federal code — has been embraced in the Capitol. The rub: Legislators want to go further this election year.

The stage is being set for another tax showdown between majority Republicans and Snyder, whose top aides say taxes have been cut enough under his watch. As one example, they point to how a road-funding deal that raised fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees will squeeze the general fund by shifting dollars to transportation, eventually expand a property tax credit and reduce the personal income taxes under certain conditions.

Snyder favors boosting the $4,000 exemption, which already is scheduled to rise to $4,300, to $4,500 to offset other impacts of the federal overhaul. GOP senators want a $4,800 exemption, though, possibly more. House Republicans will propose a tax cut plan soon.

House Minority Leader Sam Singh favors targeted tax relief for low-income earners, whose tax credit was reduced under Republicans’ 2011 tax rewrite.

“If we’re going to do anything, we need to rectify that wrong that was done,” he said.

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DRIVER FEES

Legislators overwhelmingly support forgiving some or all of the estimated $634 million in debt facing 348,000 drivers who owe outstanding state “responsibility fees” for certain traffic infractions, which have been criticized for disproportionately hurting low-income motorists who cannot afford to pay.

While Snyder has had some…

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