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Richardville Wants PPT Bills Done By Summer Break

Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE (R-Monroe) said Tuesday he wants the Personal Property Tax (PPT) reform package on the Governor's desk before summer break.

"I personally think we shouldn't leave this summer without having that issue addressed completely," Richardville told reporters. "Now does that mean that the Governor signs it before we leave this summer? Ideally, yeah. . . . I know that a lot of people who are pro-business, pro-job want to take a vote on this before the summer."

The eight-bill package (SB 1065, SB 1066, SB 1067, SB 1068, SB 1069, SB 1070, SB 1071 and SB 1072) spearheaded by Senate Finance Chair Jack BRANDENBURG (R-Harrison Twp.) was introduced Tuesday.

Richardville called it "one of the most significant" things the Legislature is working on.

The total revenue from the current PPT is $1.2 billion per year. The package introduced Tuesday ultimately eliminates approximately $470 million per year once it is fully implemented, which wouldn't be until 2022.

MIRS has learned that the bills weren't initially on the fast track, as there were some concerns that both the PPT and the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) could be politically damaging for House Republicans up for re-election this fall. But Brandenburg and House and Senate leadership have decided to press ahead.

MIRS asked Richardville if the House really wanted to take that vote on the PPT bills. He said he hadn't talked with House Republicans "specifically" about taking a vote, but said he'd be "surprised that they wouldn't, though. I know this is on everybody's agenda." The Majority Leader said this was one thing left outstanding after last year's tax restructuring and business tax cut.

Richardville said "a reasonable timeframe" would be for the package to be on the Senate floor in two to three weeks. He said he expected there to be thorough hearings and amendments to the bills.

Richardville noted that "we're not looking at a full-replacement type of a proposal" but said the proposal is a "reasonable change" in the tax structure.

"I think, in general, our caucus is supportive of the idea of removing a punitive tax on investments," Richardville said. ". . . We have to be competitive not only with Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, other Midwestern states. We also have to be competitive with China, with Mexico and anyone else we're competing with on a global basis."

The source of revenue to replace the lost personal property will be increased business tax revenue resulting from the expiration of tax credits. The largest of these tax credits are the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) and the battery credits.

Here's how the reform would work in terms of revenue replacement, according to Brandenburg's office. Money from expiring credits would be placed in a special pool for distribution. The mechanism for getting the money from the pool is up to the locals. It is not a direct 81 percent refund of what the locals lost. The money in the pool is probably going to be 81-87 percent of all the money lost throughout the state.

There will not be enough money to replace everyone dollar for dollar, according to Brandenburg's office. The pool will be made up of 100 percent of revenue lost to cover debt mills, 98 percent of revenue lost in governmental operations and potentially 99 percent of revenue lost in governmental operations for economically distressed communities.

The logical choice for locals would be to choose to distribute the money in the 98 percent way, according to Brandenburg. However, the legislation will not choose a distribution formula for them.

Richardville said he's open to groups like those representing local governments providing input, but he's not interested if those that wait until the last minute to pop changes in an effort to "derail" legislation.

The small business personal property tax exemption begins Dec. 31, 2012, and exempts all industrial and commercial personal property with a taxable value of less than $40,000. The $40,000 exemption is applied in each local jurisdiction in which a business taxpayer owns property, so a single firm with multiple small locations, such as a chain restaurant, could receive multiple $40,000 exemptions. The $40,000 is not phased in or out.

According to Department of Treasury estimates, the small business personal property tax exemption on commercial and industrial personal property with a taxable value of less than $40,000 will cost roughly $70 million per year, with roughly $65 million attributable to commercial personal property.

The $40,000 taxable value exemption will eliminate the PPT and tax return filing requirement for roughly 75 percent to 80 percent of all industrial and commercial taxpayers, according to Senate Republicans.

Eligible manufacturing property personal property acquired prior to Dec. 31, 2011, is exempt after it becomes 10 years old. On Dec. 31, 2015, all property acquired prior to Dec. 31, 2005, will immediately become exempt. Thereafter, one year of acquisitions will become exempt each year until Dec. 31, 2021, at which point all eligible manufacturing property will be exempt.

Bridge Company Launches Ballot Drive
The Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) is putting another ballot petition onto Michigan's already-overflowing list: a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to decide about any new Detroit-Canada bridges.

The ballot proposal from "The People Should Decide" reads, "The People should decide whether state government may construct or finance new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles. Consistent with this policy, and to shield the people from unnecessary burdens, the State shall not undertake ownership and the development of or use of State funds or resources for new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles unless first determined to be necessary and appropriate by majority vote of the people."

The group will need to collect nearly 325,000 signatures by the first week in July to get the question on the ballot in November. Mickey BLASHFIELD, the head of The People Should Decide, said the goal is to gather between 450,000 and 500,000 signatures. He'll be assisted in the effort by Jennifer DENNIS.

Blashfield didn't reveal how large his budget is for gathering signatures from paid circulators, but did confirm that a "firm is in the field" and that "there will be an extensive grassroots effort, as well."

"We're serious. This is not a PR stunt," Blashfield said. "The bottom line is that it's the people who have been a pawn in all of this and they should decide whether government should be involved in building a bridge or if there are other priorities.

Tom SHIELDS, president of Marketing Resource Group, said that this may just mean Gov. Rick SNYDER will decide on the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) sooner.

"Maybe this will spur the Governor on to make sure that this proposal and plan is wrapped up by the year's end," said Shields.

If Snyder takes action on an international bridge before a November vote, Blashfield said there is language in the proposal that "takes care of that eventualty."

"Michigan voters should determine the priorities of where the State invests resources," said DIBC owner Matthew MOROUN. "We believe such a decision should require the vote of the people."

The DIBC release noted that the Ambassador Bridge, which the company operates, was introduced as a private sector proposal in 1927 and voted on in a ballot referendum.

"I believe the voters of this state will reject Mr. Moroun's attempt to guarantee his monopoly in the state's Constitution," said Shields.

At the same time, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Friday worked to knock down Pier 19, supposedly the start of a second bridge that DIBC had planned. The pier was not authorized and was not a part of the Gateway Project between the company and MDOT that aimed to relieve traffic congestion.

March Jobless Rate Slips To 8.5%
Michigan's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was down to 8.5 percent, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).

The rate has slipped three-tenths of a percent since February. Total employment increased by 21,000 in March, while the number of unemployed declined by 12,000. The state's workforce recorded a gain of 9,000 over the month.

The Michigan jobless rate in March 2012 was 2 full percentage points below the state's March 2011 rate of 10.5 percent. The national jobless rate decreased by seven-tenths of a percentage point over this period. The state's unemployment rate in March was similar, but slightly higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent.

"With the March data, Michigan continues to record incremental monthly unemployment rate reductions," said Rick WACLAWEK, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. "During the first quarter of 2012, the number of unemployed in Michigan fell by 37,000."

Michigan's March 2012 jobless rate was the lowest for the state since the 8.5 percent rate recorded in August 2008. Michigan's workforce rose for the third month in a row in March, moderating the continued over the year decline. From March 2011 to March 2012, the state's labor force was down by 17,000 or .4 percent.

From the fourth quarter 2011 to the first quarter 2012, Michigan's quarterly jobless rate fell by eight-tenths of a percentage point from 9.6 to 8.8 percent.

From March 2011 to March 2012, the number of unemployed in Michigan dropped by 96,000 or nearly 20 percent. Nationally, unemployment declined by 7 percent since March 2011.

The state's total employment level rose by 78,000 or 1.9 percent since March 2011, which outpaced the national gain of 1.6 percent over that period.

The Detroit-Warren-Livonia Metropolitan Statistical Area's (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March continued to fall, declining over the month by four-tenths of a percentage point to 9.4 percent. March marked the ninth consecutive monthly jobless rate reduction for the area, and was the lowest rate for the region since the September 2008 rate of 9.3 percent.

Over the month, total employment increased by 4,000, while the number of unemployed declined by 8,000. The net result was about a 3,000 reduction in the metro area's workforce. The MSA's labor force has been little changed since December, while total employment has risen for eight consecutive months.

From March 2011 to March 2012, the Detroit metropolitan area's jobless rate fell by two and three-tenths percentage points. In that period, the region's total employment level rose by 29,000 or 1.6 percent, while the number of unemployed declined by 47,000 or 20 percent. The area's workforce decreased by 17,000 or .8 percent since March 2011. Over-the-year labor force reductions have moderated recently in the metro area.

According to the monthly survey of employers, seasonally adjusted Michigan payroll jobs were essentially flat in March, edging slightly upward over the month by 1,000 to 3,982,000. March job gains were recorded in manufacturing (+5,000), and leisure and hospitality services (+4,000). Offsetting job declines were posted in professional and business services (-5,000), and trade, transportation and utilities (-4,000). The state's remaining major industry sectors were little changed over the month.

Overall payroll jobs in Michigan have shown very little movement since January; however jobs in 2012 have increased above 2011 levels. The moderate March gain in statewide manufacturing jobs reversed the decline in February, putting this sector's job count on par with January's level.

After remaining relatively steady throughout 2011, retail trade recorded its fourth consecutive monthly job loss. The retail sector reported a decline of 8,000 jobs since March 2011. Retail trade and government were the only two sectors in Michigan to record significant job cuts over the year.

Jobs in leisure and hospitality services rose in March for the fifth month in a row. This sector is now displaying a very minor job gain over the year after shedding jobs through much of 2011.

Since March 2011, payroll jobs in Michigan increased by 57,000 or 1.4 percent. Job growth in three major sectors; manufacturing, professional and business services, and education and health services, accounted for nearly all of the state's over-the-year gains. Seasonally adjusted average weekly hours and earnings of production workers in manufacturing declined over the month as well as over the year.

Attempt To Lift Swine Ban Shot Dead
An effort to call back Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agents who are now enforcing an order to destroy certain non-native swine from hunting ranches was shot down in the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday.

Sen. Darwin BOOHER (R-Evart) and Sen. Howard WALKER (R-Traverse City) argued that the DNR is killing the exotic hogs on the basis that they dig under hunting ranch fencing and ravish the natural resources. But they pointed out the pork producers' pigs escape and damage the environment, too.

Booher proposed a provision for the DNR's Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 to essentially pause enforcement of the invasive species order the DNR officers are operating under, but it fell, 6-9, marking the first time the Senate has taken a public vote on the measure.

Senate Republicans have debated in caucus a House-passed bill that would add strict regulations on the hog-hunting ranches to overstep the DNR's invasive species order, but opponents to the bill always outnumbered supporters.

That proved to be the case in the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, where Sen. Mike GREEN (R-Mayville), the chair of the Senate DNR Appropriations Subcommittee, agreed to mandate a DNR study on the enforcement of the invasive species order, but declined to support Booher's amendment to SB 0906.

Supporters of the DNR order argue non-native feral swine are prone to carry infectious disease that could decimate the state's pork producers.

Senators tired to keep discussion on the divisive subject light, with Sen. Bruce CASWELL (R-Hillsdale) asking, "I'm wondering whether this amendment will interfere with the fact that this little piggy went to market and this little piggy stayed home?"

Sens. John MOOLENAAR (R-Midland), Mark JANSEN (R-Gaines Township), Patrick COLBECK (R-Canton) and John PAPPAGEORGE (R-Troy) joined Walker and Booher in supporting the amendment.

Meanwhile, the DNR reported Wednesday its officers conducted six more inspections Tuesday and of game ranches and breeding facilities that it suspected could have the prohibited swine. It found none on any of the six, which raised the number of inspections to 18 statewide.

The DNR conducted an inspection at the Deer Tracks Ranch in Fife Lake with a court-issued administrative search warrant, but found no swine. The DNR filed a civil complaint against the Renegade Ranch Hunting Preserve in Cheboygan County.

The inspections were the most recent action taken by the DNR to enforce a December 2010 Invasive Species Order that banned many foreign species of hogs.

"Michigan residents know what can happen when an invasive species becomes established and grows," said DNR Director Rodney STOKES. "The Great Lakes offers convincing evidence of the terrible impact non-native organism have on natural resources.

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