Lansing Update: Catholic Schools Recognized by Legislature and more…

In this update:

Legislature: Catholic Schools in Michigan Strengthen the Common Good

A nationwide celebration of Catholic schools this week was acknowledged by the Michigan Legislature with a pair of resolutions recognizing the importance of Catholic schools in Michigan.

House Resolution 21, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Schmaltz (R-Jackson), and Senate Resolution 3, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe), were adopted in their respective chambers last week ahead of National Catholic Schools Week, which runs from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4.

The resolutions noted that nearly 50,000 students attend the more than 200 Catholic schools in Michigan and that Catholic schools save Michigan taxpayers roughly $450 million in state spending annually.

Catholic schools were recognized in the resolutions as “providing a broad, values-based education, emphasizing the lifelong development of moral, intellectual, and social values in young people, making them responsible citizens of our state and nation.”

The resolutions also noted how Catholic schools serve the common good of society due in part to the fact they “educate many students who are non-Catholic,” as well as “many students who are economically disadvantaged.”

“We support the continued dedication of Catholic schools across Michigan toward academic excellence and the key role Catholic schools play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for students,” the legislative resolutions stated.

Earned Income Tax Credit Part of Discussions on Broader Tax Relief Bill

Last week, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) applauded the state House and Senate for passing bills to significantly increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which will deliver tax relief to more working families.

Both the House and Senate passed similar bills that would take the state EITC to 30 percent of the federal credit from the current rate of 6 percent.

At this point, an increase to the EITC is being discussed as part of a broader tax relief package, according to media reports this week. The EITC increase would be included in a bill that combines other legislative proposals to exempt more retirement income from taxation and to provide economic development funding for business attraction.

Negotiations on this legislation are ongoing and MCC will provide updates on how this development affects passage of the EITC increase.

In other state spending news, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a state spending bill that was intended to close the financial books on the fiscal year that ended in September 2022 but also included nearly $1 billion in new spending for the current fiscal year that began October 1, 2022.

Of note in the bill—Senate Bill 7—was $150 million dedicated toward affordable housing, which is a key MCC policy priority in ensuring that all Michiganders have access to necessities, which includes housing.

Specifically, the money is intended to create an affordable housing tax credit gap financing program for the purpose of reducing the housing cost burden of residents and increasing the supply of and preserving existing affordable housing, according to an analysis of the bill.

MCC Meets with Michigan Congressional Delegation in D.C., Advocates for Federal Issues

MCC staff met with members of Michigan’s congressional delegation or their representatives in the nation’s Capital this past week to advocate for important Catholic issues on the federal level.

From left: Tom Hickson, MCC Vice President for Public Policy & Advocacy, U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet), and Paul Stankewitz, MCC Policy Advocate. U.S. Rep. Bergman represents Michigan’s First Congressional District.

In addition to participating in the annual Social Ministry Gathering hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), MCC staff met with three members of Michigan’s congressional delegation and staff for nine other members.

Among the topics of discussion included supporting children and families by passing a strengthened federal Child Tax Credit and supporting hungry and vulnerable people with robust international humanitarian relief and development assistance.

They also urged the passage of legislation providing Afghan humanitarian parolees in the United States with a pathway to permanent legal status, in line with the Catholic social policy of promoting the dignity and humanity of refugees.