Brandenburg’s Michigan tax relief bill passes Senate unanimously

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Brandenburg that would restore the Michigan personal tax exemption lost in the recent federal tax reform.

Without Senate Bill 748, Michigan families face a tax hike of nearly $1.5 billion.

Sen. Brandenburg’s legislation maintains the state’s personal exemption and also increases the exemption amount by $700 to $5,000 by 2021, while remaining tied to inflation. Currently, the state personal tax exemption is scheduled to increase from $4,000 to $4,300 over the next three years.

“This would be about a $210 million cut to a colossal state budget that’s over $55 billion,” said Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township. “We really haven’t had any meaningful state tax relief for average, working-class people in 20 years. This is great progress and it’s been long overdue.”

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, SB 748 will result in a $210 million tax cut, or just 0.38 percent of the total budget.

“I’m proud that this legislation received unanimous bipartisan support,” Brandenburg added. “It’s a common-sense fix for a serious problem, and it puts money back into the pockets of hardworking Michigan families.”

Michigan’s current state income tax law ties Michigan personal exemptions to the federal number of exemptions. Without a revision to the law, Michigan taxpayers would no longer be able to claim the personal exemptions on their state taxes.

SB 748 will now go to the Michigan House for consideration. Brandenburg urged his colleagues in the House to pass the bill quickly so Michigan families can file confidently and with the knowledge that they are keeping even more of their hard earned money.

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Sen. Brandenburg announces tax relief for Michigan families

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, introduced legislation on Thursday that would restore the Michigan personal tax exemption that was lost in the recent federal tax reform.

Without Senate Bill 748, Michigan families would be hit with a tax hike of nearly $1.5 billion.

“It’s been my main priority in Lansing to fight for tax relief for Michigan families,” Brandenburg said. “President Trump went big and bold in his tax relief for American families and it is time we do the same for families here in Michigan.

“My plan to increase the personal exemption to $4,800 will provide meaningful relief to taxpayers in our state, while being responsible with our state tax dollars.”

Sen. Brandenburg’s legislation makes necessary changes to maintain the state’s personal exemption and provides an increase in the state personal exemption by $500 to $4,800 by 2021, while remaining tied to inflation. Currently, the state personal tax exemption is scheduled to increase from $4,000 to $4,300 over the next three years.

“The governor’s plan to increase the personal exemption to $4,500 was a good start, but I believe we need to go further in a responsible way to provide real tax relief for Michigan families,” Brandenburg said. “That’s why my plan would more than double the savings a family of four would realize in their tax returns from the personal exemption compared to the $4,500 proposal offered by the Governor.”

The federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act, in addition to lowering income tax rates, included a streamlined exemption process that eliminated the $4,050 personal exemption at the federal level, setting it to zero.

Michigan’s current state income tax law ties Michigan personal exemptions to the federal number of exemptions. Without a revision to the law, Michigan taxpayers would no longer be able to claim the personal exemptions on their state taxes. This would cost state taxpayers around $1.5 billion a year.

“The federal tax reform package was a big win for our country,” Brandenburg said. “Now I’m leading the reforms here in Michigan to adjust for the new law and to make sure Michigan families have tax relief on all levels. My plan is to take quick action so that Michigan taxpayers don’t face any tax hikes.”

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on SB 748 on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

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Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg backs Michigan first-time home buyer savings program

To ensure Michigan is an attractive place to work and live, it’s important that housing is affordable for the next generation of homebuyers.

I recently supported legislation that would help residents save enough money to buy their first house. Senate Bill 511 creates a first-time homebuyer savings plan. Funds in the account could be used toward a down payment or allowable closing costs. Senate Bill 512 provides an income tax deduction of up to $5,000 for a single return and $10,000 for a joint return for contributions and interest earned.

The legislation provides a great incentive to encourage young people and new families to stay and settle in our state. The bills have been sent to the House for consideration.

 

Sen. Brandenburg supports new laws to improve unemployment benefits system

The Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan package of bills — now signed into law — to reform and improve Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.

The reforms help fix problems created by the automated fraud system in which more than 37,000 people were wrongly accused of fraud and lost their benefits from 2013 to 2015. The agency has required human review in making a fraud determination since August 2015. Under the new laws, claimants accused of fraud will also have access to an advocacy program for better representation.

The changes also create a new process to handle potential identity theft claims, an ever-increasing problem. Among other provisions, this measure allows benefits to stop when the agency receives an affidavit from a person with a stolen identity and establishes a position similar to an “inspector general” to investigate fraud and make recommendations to improve integrity and accountability within the program.

Public Acts 225-232 of 2017 received the support of business and labor groups, as well as the state unemployment agency.

 

Many forest roads in northern Lower Peninsula open to ORV use

More than 6,300 miles of roads in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula state forest system are now open to off-road vehicles, while about 1,200 miles of road remain closed. The plan balances motorized recreational access with resource protection and safety. Signs will be installed on roads closed to ORV use as soon as possible, depending on ground conditions. Riders should check DNR maps at www.michigan.gov/forestroads to make sure roads are authorized for ORV use.

Roads in the state forest system in the Upper Peninsula are also open to ORV riders; those in the southern Lower Peninsula will open Jan. 1, 2019.

 

Stay winter ready

Winter weather can be challenging in Michigan! If the power goes out, water and gas may not be available. A fully stocked preparedness kit can be helpful during an emergency or disaster. According to the Michigan State Police, a household kit should contain — at a minimum — food, water, a first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, clothing and a blanket.

Find a recommended checklist of emergency kit items, a pet preparedness kit checklist and many other resources at www.michigan.gov/miready.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

The year in review

As we look ahead to a new year of challenges and opportunity, I would like to share a last look at some important 2017 legislative accomplishments. Please visit www.misenategop.com for information on these and other legislative efforts.

 

Michigan is the Comeback State!

At 4.5 percent, Michigan’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and more than 500,000 private sector jobs have been added to our economy in nearly seven years — more than any other Great Lakes state!

For seven years in a row, Senate Republicans have passed a balanced budget ahead of schedule, and we have turned a $1.8 billion structural budget deficit into a nearly $900 million surplus in the state’s rainy day fund.

 

Education is a top priority      

Over the last seven years, we have put $1.8 billion more into public education. Forty-six cents of every state tax dollar goes to public education. This year, we allocated nearly $28 million for a third-grade reading initiative as well as $244 million for preschool funding.

We also increased skilled trades funding to prepare future workers for in-demand jobs in career and technical education.

 

Honoring those who protect us

We owe so much to those who keep us safe. To make sure veterans receive the proper care they deserve, Senate Republicans increased funding for more staff and training at our veterans homes.

In addition, the budget invests $12.2 million to hire 150 new state police troopers to keep our communities secure, and $1.5 million to boost efforts to prevent, detect and investigate cybercrimes.

 

Fighting back against the opioid epidemic

We took action to help combat the abuse of prescription drugs in an effort to curb the rising opioid abuse epidemic. New laws will better educate patients about the dangers of addiction to doctor-prescribed painkillers and ensure better reporting by physicians.

 

Moving Michigan into the future

Michigan Thrive and Good Jobs for Michigan were Senate Republican priorities to revitalize downtown areas across the state, spur economic development in our urban cores, and attract new businesses that create well-paying jobs.

We also created the Michigan First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account — a tax-deductible savings plan — to encourage young adults to purchase their first home here in Michigan and remain in our great state.

 

Protecting our natural resources

From hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and more, Pure Michigan offers unmatched recreational opportunities. We invested an additional $13 million in the fiscal year 2018 budget in our state parks and trails for continued improvements, upgrades and developments.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg backs bills to increase road safety

A study last year by CarInsuranceComparison.com ranked Michigan motorists as the eighth-best drivers in the country. Legislation recently passed by the Senate would help make driving on Michigan roadways even safer if signed into law. The legislation includes:

  • Senate Bill 521 would require drivers to treat intersections where a traffic signal is out as a four-way stop. The bill doesn’t apply to traffic signals that are only active at certain times, such as those outside a school or fire department.
  • Senate Bill 477 would require drivers to slow down and “move over” when approaching a vehicle with amber flashing lights, such as a utility or tow truck. Drivers are already required to move over if an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is on the side of the road, or if unsafe to do so, pass with caution at a safe, reduced speed.

Both bills have been sent to the House for consideration.

 

Sen. Brandenburg supports legislation to protect local retirement benefits

In Michigan, local governments are nearly $19 billion in the red on their pension and retirement health care obligations.

I recently supported legislation to better protect the retirement benefits promised to local workers, including law enforcement and firefighters. The bills require uniform and consistent reporting by local governments with unfunded liabilities to accurately assess retirement costs and taxpayer obligations. Communities can then develop plans to get control of their debt. It’s important to ensure existing problems do not get bigger or go unaddressed.

In related news, a new website provides important financial data about Michigan’s counties, townships, cities and villages. Visit www.michigan.gov/treasury and click on MI Community Financial Dashboard to learn about a community’s revenues and expenditures, as well as long-term debt and unfunded pension liability costs.

 

Travelers: most rest areas open during winter

Nearly all of the state’s 78 rest areas are scheduled to remain open this winter. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will close five rest areas because of reduced use during winter months and safety concerns. The following are closed and set to reopen in April:

  • Ignace Rest area on southbound 1-75 in Mackinac County
  • Ludington Rest Area on northbound US-31 in Mason County
  • Topinabee Rest Area on northbound 1-75 in Cheboygan County
  • Hebron Rest Area on southbound 1-75 in Cheboygan County
  • Hart Rest Area on southbound US-31 in Oceana County

 

Home heating help

As the weather turns cold, some households may have trouble paying their winter heating bills. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) urges customers to first contact their utility company if they are unable to pay their bill on time, before receiving a shut-off notice. Seniors and low-income customers may be eligible for the Winter Protection Plan, a program to protect against service shut-off and high utility payments between Nov. 1 and March 31. Contact the gas or electric company to apply. Other assistance programs are available for shut-off protection, including the State Emergency Relief program and utility help for active duty military families. For more information as well as weatherization tips, visit www.michigan.gov/mpsc and type in the keywords MPSC Be WinterWise Program.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg backs new law to protect personal information

Consumers will have better protection against fraud at the gas pump under Senate legislation recently signed into law.

Public Act 168 of 2017 (Senate Bill 415) requires greater security measures at the pump to restrict the unauthorized access of customer payment card information and prevent the use of skimmers. Skimmers are small devices that can be hidden in gas pumps to copy credit and debit card personal information. Approximately 82 skimmers have been found in Michigan since 2015. While many gas stations have security measures already in place, all stations will now be required to provide additional protections for consumers.

The new law takes effect Feb. 19, 2018.

 

Sen. Brandenburg supports new law strengthening high school career counseling

Many students and their parents are unaware of the trends in today’s changing job market and college selection process. That’s why it is important to ensure high school guidance counselors are better able to assist students with information on their college and career opportunities after leaving high school.

I supported a new law that requires high school counselors to dedicate 50 hours of their required 150 hours of professional development to college preparation and career counseling, including careers in the skilled trades, as well as technical and military careers. Public Act 151 of 2017 (House Bill 4181) will apply to school counselors renewing their credentials two years after the effective date of January 2018.

 

MET enrollment

The Michigan Education Trust (MET) has reopened enrollment in time for holiday gift givers to buy or contribute toward a child’s 529 prepaid tuition contract. Family members or friends can purchase a new MET prepaid tuition contract in a child’s name or contribute money toward an existing contract. Contract holders qualify for a tax deduction on their Michigan tax returns for purchases or contributions made by Dec. 31.

For more information, visit www.SETwithMET.com or call 800-MET-4-KID.

 

Pure Michigan Hunt application deadline nears

The “hunt of a lifetime” offers three lucky winners the opportunity to obtain licenses for spring and fall turkey, antlerless deer, bear, elk and first pick at a managed waterfowl hunt area, along with a prize package valued at more than $4,000. Applications for the 2018 drawing are $5 each and available at license agent locations and online at www.mdnr-elicense.com until Dec. 31.

The 2017 Pure Michigan Hunt generated nearly $260,000 to help fund wildlife habitat restoration and improvements in Michigan. Find more information at www.michigan.gov/pmh.

 

Travel guide showcases Michigan winter

The Pure Michigan Winter Travel Guide highlights great cold weather fun in our state, including skiing and snowmobiling, even dog sledding! The publication also includes a guide to indoor culinary and entertainment destinations and a winter events calendar. Access the digital edition at www.michigan.org  or contact my office for a free print copy.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Senate bills secure schools and protect rights of residents

Currently in Michigan, concealed pistol license holders can open carry a gun into areas such as schools and churches.

I recently supported legislation that would eliminate the open carry option and allow people who have an enhanced license that includes additional training requirements to carry a concealed weapon instead. This reform closes the open carry loophole to ensure our schools are secure and activities are not disrupted by the sight of a firearm while honoring the rights of people to defend themselves. In addition, the legislation creates one unified, statewide policy, although school districts may create their own rules for teachers and students.

Senate Bills 584-586 have been sent to the House for consideration.

 

#OptOutside

The Department of Natural Resources is offering free entry to Michigan state parks on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving. Free access to state parks, trails and boating sites is just one more reason to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Michigan’s outdoor playground is spectacular and close to home. In fact, you’re never more than a half-hour away from a state park, recreation area, state forest campground or state trail!

 

MI Student Aid offers scholarship search

Many high school students and their parents are looking for ways to help pay for a college education. The Department of Treasury’s MI Student Aid program provides a scholarship search tool that connects students with thousands of possible scholarship opportunities throughout the state. Students or their families can complete and submit a brief online survey at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid. Service representatives will search for Michigan scholarships and email a detailed report within a week. Along with Michigan place-based scholarships, the program connects students to Michigan college and national scholarship opportunities.

 

Invasive Carp Challenge receives hundreds of possible solutions

Invasive carp pose a looming threat to the environmental health of the Great Lakes and Michigan’s fishing, boating and recreation industries.

A worldwide competition launched by the state for ideas to help stop these invasive fish from reaching the lakes recently ended.  The Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge received 353 entries from 27 countries. The entries will be reviewed by expert judges. Winners of up to eight Stage 1 awards will be announced in February 2018. From there, an event featuring Stage 2 finalists is planned to take place in late March 2018.

Earlier this year, a 28-inch silver carp was caught only nine miles from Lake Michigan, well past an electric barrier system. Hopefully, one or more of the Challenge ideas will provide a new and innovative way to protect our cherished Great Lakes. Visit www.michigan.gov/carpchallenge for more information.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg supports cancer drug coverage legislation

Michigan patients should have access to the most effective chemotherapy treatments to successfully treat their cancer.

Yet high costs in the way some medications are administered can be a deciding factor in a patient’s treatment decision. If a patient in Michigan needs anticancer medication in pill form, it is often covered as a health insurance plan prescription benefit, requiring a patient to pay for part of the treatment. This out-of-pocket cost can run thousands of dollars a month. Intravenously administered or injected chemotherapy medications are commonly covered as a health insurance plan medical benefit and don’t require the patient to pay an additional fee for the medication.

I recently supported legislation that would require health insurance policies to cover oral cancer treatments in the same way that intravenously or injected anticancer treatments are covered. A patient should not have to worry about the cost of medicine when fighting cancer.

Senate Bill 492 has been sent to the House for consideration. If the legislation is adopted and signed into law, Michigan would join 43 other states with oral chemotherapy parity.

 

Sen. Brandenburg supports update to concussion law

Concussions are a very serious injury and can occur in any sport or recreational activity.

In 2012, Michigan enacted a law to help protect our children’s health by increasing awareness among coaches, parents, young athletes and others about the dangers associated with concussions.

I recently supported an update to the law. Public Act 137 of 2017 (Senate Bill 352) requires the Department of Health and Human Services to regularly review the state’s concussion awareness training program to ensure it is up-to-date on the standards and protocols for treating and preventing concussions. The new law also requires coaches and others involved in youth sports organizations to complete the training program once every three years.

 

Elk license plate available Dec. 1
Beginning Dec. 1, the specialty Michigan license plate featuring the common loon will be replaced with an elk plate to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the reintroduction of elk in Michigan.

Michigan’s native elk disappeared from the state around 1875. In 1918, seven elk were brought in from the western United States and the population grew steadily. A 2014 survey estimated the herd to number 668.

Funds from the sale of the elk license plate will continue to help wildlife management. For more information on specialty license plates, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. To learn more about Michigan’s elk population, go to www.michigan.gov/elk.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg supports Youth ChalleNGe program for young offenders

The Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Academy has a proven track record in helping young people change the direction of their lives.

I recently supported Senate legislation that would allow judges to expunge the record of certain juvenile offenders if they complete the Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Academy program. The academy is administered by the Michigan National Guard and offers high school dropouts or potential dropouts the opportunity to earn a high-school degree and college credits. With a focus on self-discipline and physical, mental and moral development, the program can help young offenders change their circumstances and behavior.

Senate Bill 471 would give young offenders a second chance and the opportunity to make a future for themselves. The bill has been sent to the House for consideration.

 

Breast Cancer Awareness license plate

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among Michigan women.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to remind motorists that the Breast Cancer Awareness license plate is one of several special fundraising plates offered by the state of Michigan. The plate features the Pink Ribbon logo and the message “Early Detection Saves Lives.” Proceeds from sales of the plate help support a state program that provides low-income women access to lifesaving cancer screening services and follow-up care, including cancer treatment if needed. Visit www.michigan.gov/sos and click on “Owning a Vehicle” for more information.

 

Michigan historical markers website
A fall color tour or road trip is a great way for travelers to take in a little Michigan history at the same time!

Since 1955, Michigan’s historical markers — the familiar green and gold signs — have told the stories of significant people, places and events in our state’s history. There are more than 1,700 markers across the state, many at highway rest areas or along scenic byways. There are even a few outside of Michigan, including one in Kentucky at the Perryville Battlefield State Park, honoring the Michigan soldiers who aided the Union in this Civil War battle.

A new, interactive website enables travelers or history buffs to easily find the markers and learn about Michigan’s past. Visit www.michigan.gov/markers and locate these sites by location, theme or word search.

 

Find the perfect hunting spot

Hunters, visit www.mi.gov/mihunt to find public hunting land, as well as private land open to the public for hunting and trapping in Michigan. The mapping tool allows users to see features such as land topography, trails, aerial photography and more. The Mi-HUNT application works on mobile devices for use in the field.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg backs bills to improve specialty courts

Michigan has 185 “problem-solving” courts, programs that aim to improve outcomes for offenders and reduce the rate of recidivism.

These specialty courts, including drug treatment, sobriety, mental health and veterans treatment courts, focus on treatment and other services to address an offender’s underlying problems, such as substance abuse or mental health issues, to help them turn their lives around.

I recently supported Senate legislation to improve this system by requiring the specialty courts to follow the same procedures and standards. Under Senate Bills 435-438, the courts would have to be certified by the State Court Administrators Office. Certification would help ensure more consistent outcomes and increase the effectiveness of the courts. The bills have been referred to the House Committee on Law and Justice.

 

Consumer alert addresses Equifax security breach

Millions of Michigan residents may have had their personal information compromised through an alleged security breach at Equifax, one of the country’s major credit reporting agencies. The Michigan attorney general’s office recently released a new consumer alert outlining steps to protect against identity theft, and to request a credit report and freeze, along with links to additional resources. Access the Equifax Breach Consumer Alert at www.michigan.gov/ag.

 

Pure Michigan Fall Travel Guide now available

Autumn in Michigan is a special season! Our state’s waters and woodlands offer postcard-perfect views and countless opportunities for outdoor adventure.

From scenic drives and hikes to weekend getaways to culinary destinations, the 2017 Pure Michigan Fall Travel Guide highlights places to go and sights to see across our great state. Access the digital version and sign up for weekly fall color updates at www.michigan.org or contact my office to receive a free print copy.

 

Hunters hunting outside of Michigan must follow new cervid rules

Michigan has a rich hunting heritage. New cervid importation regulations will help protect the state’s deer population to ensure our hunting tradition stays strong.

To help keep potential cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from unintentionally being brought into Michigan, hunters who harvest a cervid (deer, moose or elk) in any other state or province can only import certain parts, such as hides, deboned meat, quarters, finished taxidermy products, cleaned teeth and antlers.

CWD is a fatal, contagious neurological disease. In 2015, a free ranging deer in mid-Michigan tested positive for CWD. Since that discovery, nine animals have tested positive for the disease. The state has taken aggressive steps, including these new regulations, to help contain this threat. Those hunting in Michigan within areas where CWD has been found must follow specific regulations as well. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/cwd.