Lansing Update: April 29, 2011

In This Week’s Lansing Update:

  1. Scaled-Back Earned Income Tax Credit Included in Tax Bill Rewrite
  2. Universities Required to Report on Embryo Research Under High Ed Bill
  3. Update on Human Services Budget

Scaled-Back Earned Income Tax Credit Included in Tax Bill Rewrite

The Michigan House of Representatives this week passed legislation that essentially rewrites the tax code for the State of Michigan and, in doing so, heavily scales back but preserves the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Under the legislation, House Bill 4361, the current state EITC that allows a filer to claim a state credit equal to twenty percent of their federal EITC will now allow those with children who qualify for the federal EITC to claim a $25 per child state tax credit. Amendments were offered to the legislation in the House Tax Policy Committee this week that would have fully restored the state EITC or 10 percent of the federal credit. Both amendments were defeated on a party line vote.

Michigan Catholic Conference has made preserving the state EITC its top legislative priority this legislation due to its ability to move low-income workers and their children out of poverty. The scaled-back EITC that can now only be claimed by those with children will come at an expense to the state of approximately $25 million. Coupled with an increased Homestead Tax Credit for those earning less than $30,000 per year, House Bill 4361 includes approximately $105 million in tax breaks for the poor, which the Conference has deemed a “step in the right direction.”

Michigan Catholic Conference will continue to advocate for the preservation and increase of the state Earned Income Tax Credit as the legislation now moves over to the State Senate.

Universities Required to Report on Embryo Research Under High Ed Bill

Universities that conduct research on human embryos would be required to report how many embryos they have acquired, how many embryos have been destroyed, how many stem cell lines they’ve developed, and how many research projects are ongoing under the state’s Higher Education budget that has been approved by both legislative chambers.

The issue arises from the 2008 ballot question that allowed human embryos to be destroyed in this state for research purposes. Michigan Catholic Conference played a major role in seeking to defeat that constitutional amendment, which was ultimately successful 52-48. With the passage of the proposal, universities such as the University of Michigan and others have moved forward with plans to destroy human embryos for research projects. However, the 2008 ballot question does not require research institutions to indicate how many embryos they have acquired and how many have been destroyed.

The legislative language approved by both the House of Representatives and the State Senate is included in the Higher Education budget, which funds the state’s fifteen public universities. This week, Governor Rick Snyder, who supported the 2008 ballot question, publicly stated he does not support the inclusion of the “embryo census” language.

It is likely the differing versions of the House and Senate Higher Education budgets will be settled in a conference committee at a date that has yet to be announced. Michigan Catholic Conference supports efforts to ensure there is accountability if human embryos are to be destroyed in this state, and supports the inclusion of the “embryo census” language in the Higher Education budget.

Lansing Update will continue to follow this important issue as it develops.

Update on Human Services Budget

Over the past three weeks Lansing Update has reported on the progress of the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget and the cuts that are of concern to the Michigan Catholic Conference. DHS is primarily responsible for providing state assistance to Michigan’s poor, elderly and vulnerable populations.

This week the State Senate passed its version of the DHS budget while the House of Representatives has rolled its DHS budget into an omnibus bill that also includes funding for the Department of Education and the Department of Community Health. The House’s omnibus bill, House Bill 4525, currently awaits consideration from the full House after passing the Appropriations Committee earlier this week.

MCC has raised concerns over both the Senate and House DHS budgets. On the Senate side, the Conference has noted the elimination of significant funding for the Indigent Burial program, which helps to ensure that funeral homes and cemeteries, including those that are faith-based, have necessary funds to bury poor persons. The Conference has also expressed significant reservation over a 48-month lifetime limit policy for those receiving state assistance which, if enacted, would immediately kick over 12,000 families off of state assistance. Prohibiting caretakers from receiving assistance in the State Disability Assistance Program is also of concern to the MCC.

On the House side, the Conference has expressed concern over the committee’s proposal to virtually eliminate the Children’s Clothing Allowance policy, which helps provide new clothes to children whose parents are receiving state assistance. The House DHS budget would also adversely impact disabled persons in the state, who would see a decrease in state aid from $269 to $175 per month. On a positive note, the House DHS budget includes measures that would increase the amount of hours a person receiving state assistance could work before being kicked out of the program.

Once the House of Representatives approves DHS’s funding for the coming fiscal year a conference committee will be created to iron out differences between the budgets. Conference committees typically include each chamber’s departmental appropriations committee chair, vice-chair and minority vice-chair, for a total of six persons in the conference committee. Once the committee members agree to differences, a report will be produced that must be approved by the full Senate and the full House.