Gov. Snyder signs Michigan tax relief into law

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 748, which will maintain Michigan’s personal exemption for income tax and will raise the personal exemption amount by $600 gradually through 2021.

“I’m glad our state’s leadership was able to help Michigan families keep more of their hard-earned money,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township. “Just about everyone takes a personal exemption, so this type of tax relief will benefit almost all Michigan taxpayers.”

Michigan’s current state income tax law ties Michigan’s personal exemptions to the federal number of exemptions. Without a revision to the law, Michigan taxpayers no longer would have been able to claim the personal exemptions on their state taxes and would have owed an additional $1.5 billion statewide.

In addition to maintaining the state’s personal exemption, Brandenburg’s bill also increases the exemption amount by $600 to $4,900 by 2021, while remaining tied to inflation. Currently, the state personal tax exemption is only scheduled to increase from $4,000 to $4,300 over the next three years.

“Tax relief is something I’ve been working for since I came to Lansing fifteen years ago,” Brandenburg said. “I know how paralyzing high taxes can be to Michigan families trying to keep a balanced budget. Lower taxes give people the freedom to spend money on more of the things they need, or to save money for more of the things they want. It’s not just a platform issue; lower taxes means meaningful relief to Michigan families.”

“On a personal note, it was especially gratifying to see SB 748 voted out of the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, and out of the Senate unanimously.”

Snyder held a press conference for the signing of the bill.

 

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Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Brandenburg’s bills to help Michigan taxpayers passes state legislature

I recently led an effort to preserve the personal exemption on state and local income taxes and to provide more tax relief for Michigan families.

While federal tax reform simplified the tax code and lowered tax rates, it effectively ended the federal personal exemption. Senate Bill 748 makes the necessary changes to ensure taxpayers can claim the personal exemption on their state income taxes and Senate Bill 750 does the same for city income taxes. As a bonus, our tax reform boosts the state personal exemption by $600 to $4,900 by 2021 to help taxpayers keep more of their own money.

The legislation has been approved by the Michigan House of Representatives and now awaits the governor’s signature.

 

Brandenburg supports legislation to eliminate driver responsibility fees

Driver responsibility fees were instituted in the Granholm era of 2003 as a way to deter dangerous or reckless driving, including driving with a suspended license.

The fees were in addition to other civil and criminal fines, amounting to a costly, double penalty. Many people have not been able to afford the fees, leading to a loss of their driver’s license and occasionally — because of the lack of transportation — their job. This also results in an accumulation of outstanding debt. The Department of Treasury recently estimated that 317,000 individuals owe more than $633 million in unpaid fines, much of that is regarded as uncollectable.

I recently supported a package of bills that would eliminate these unfair and ineffective fees on Oct. 1, 2018. Drivers on a payment plan would have their fees eliminated immediately. In addition, drivers who cannot pay their fees would be able to get their license back if they, instead, undergo a workforce training program. This legislation would help drivers get their license reinstated so they can get back to work.

 

Free tax preparation guides available

I am pleased to provide a free resource that may be helpful in filling out state income tax forms for the 2017 tax year.

Though not a substitute for the Michigan Department of Treasury tax instruction booklets, the Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide 2018 provides useful information on Michigan’s individual income taxes, property taxes and tax credits. The publication includes copies of the most commonly used tax forms as well as a list of important property tax dates and deadlines and state tax agency tax assistance contact information. It’s important to note that the federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 does not affect individual income taxes for 2017.

Please visit my website for a link to the tax guide or contact my office for a print copy.

 

OK2SAY: Michigan’s student safety program

Michigan’s OK2SAY student safety program enables students, parents, teachers, friends and others to confidentially report anything they feel threatens their safety or the safety of others. Tips can be submitted by email at OK2SAY@mi.gov, telephone at 855-565-2729 (8-555-OK2SAY), text message at 652729 (OK2SAY) or online at OK2SAY.com. A mobile app is available through Google Play and iTunes. More than 11,000 tips have been received since the program launched in September 2014. Most tips reported suicide threats, bullying, assault, self-harm and drugs.

Brandenburg’s Michigan tax relief bill heads to governor

Sen. Jack Brandenburg

Sen. Jack Brandenburg

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature 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 and would reduce income taxes overall for Michigan families.

Senate Bill 748 avoids a tax hike on Michigan families of nearly $1.5 billion by maintaining the state’s personal exemption. It also increases the exemption by $600 through 2021 for a total of $4,900 that year. The deduction would then remain tied to inflation. Currently, the state personal tax exemption is only scheduled to increase from $4,000 to $4,300 over the next three years.

“This is a huge win for Michigan taxpayers,” said Brandenburg. “It’s been more than 20 years since we’ve seen any significant tax relief, so clearly this is long overdue.”

Michigan’s current state income tax law ties Michigan’s 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. Once fully phased-in, the relief will mean Michigan income tax savings of more than $150 per year for a family of four.

“Tax relief is something that I’ve been working on since I came to Lansing fifteen years ago,” Brandenburg said. “My Republican colleagues and I made some tremendous economic improvements in that time, but this is one of the bills I’m most proud of because it directly makes people’s wallets thicker.”

SB 748 will now go to Gov. Snyder for his signature into law. The bill would go into immediate effect upon the governor’s signature.

 

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Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Brandenburg supports new laws to improve specialty courts

Laws that take effect this month will help improve outcomes for some offenders and cut down on the rate of recidivism.

Under Public Acts 161-164 of 2017, specialty or “problem-solving” courts, including veterans treatment, sobriety, drug treatment and mental health courts, will follow the same evidence-based practices and uniform guidelines as part of a new certification process. The new laws will help give participants the best opportunity for success and create a more consistent approach for the courts.

Michigan’s specialty courts reach 97 percent of the state’s population, helping offenders access treatment to address underlying issues such as alcohol or drug abuse.

Brandenburg backs bill to help people with limited mobility

Many seniors and others with limited mobility depend on easy access to disability parking.

I recently supported legislation to give physical therapists the same ability as physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to certify a patient’s disability in applying for free parking stickers, disability windshield placards, license plates and parking permits.  As health professionals with specialized knowledge in recognizing and providing treatment for mobility problems, these individuals also have the training and experience to determine a disabling condition. Senate Bill 582 has been sent to the House for consideration.

Pure Michigan Hunt update

Three lucky hunters recently received a congratulatory call from theMichigan Department of Natural Resources as the 2018 Pure Michigan Hunt winners. The winners will receive elk, bear, spring and fall turkey and antlerless deer licenses and a base license to be used in 2018 as well as first pick opening morning of the waterfowl season at any managed waterfowl hunt area. Each hunter also will receive a package of donated hunting gear worth more than $4,000.

The 2018 drawing had a total of 35,214 applications, generating more than $176,000 for habitat restoration and improvements. Applications for the next Pure Michigan Hunt drawing will be available starting March 1. Visit www.mi.gov/pmh for more information.

February is Heart Month

Up to 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be prevented. Many risk factors, such as blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol and lack of regular physical activity can be controlled. That’s why it’s important to learn about prevention and lifestyle changes.

I recently cosponsored Senate Resolution 125, a measure proclaiming February 2018 as American Heart Month and Feb. 2, 2018 as “Go Red for Women Day” to bring attention to heart disease. By raising awareness on heart health, we can help save thousands of lives each year.

Report a pothole

Michigan’s seasonal freeze-thaw cycle takes a toll on pavement! According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, as moisture seeps into the pavement, freezes, expands and thaws, it creates a gap in the pavement. As vehicles drive over the gap, the pavement weakens, leading to a pothole.Motorists can report a pothole on any state road (roads beginning with M, I or U.S. designations) at www.michigan.gov/mdot (click on How Do I) or by calling 888-296-4546. For potholes on other roads, contact your county or local unit of government.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Brandenburg’s tax relief bills gets unanimous support

The legislation I introduced to help hardworking Michigan taxpayers keep more of the money they earn passed with unanimous support in the Senate. Senate Bills 748-750 protect the personal exemption on state and local income taxes and deliver additional tax relief to American families.

While recent federal tax reform lowers tax rates and doubles the standard deduction, it also effectively ends the federal personal exemption. Since the state personal exemption is based on the federal return, Michigan taxpayers would be unable to claim personal exemptions on their state income taxes. The bills make the necessary changes to not only keep the personal exemption intact, but also to increase the exemption as well. In 2018, the exemption would be $4,500. My plan would increase it by $100 each year through 2020 and then up to $5,000 in 2021.

In addition, the legislation helps families who provide necessary care for children, elderly parents or disabled family members by creating a new dependent care tax credit.

The bills have been sent to the House for further consideration.

 

 Brandenburg backs override to speed up sales tax relief

The Legislature recently voted to override the governor’s veto of legislation to accelerate “sales tax on the difference” reform when consumers purchase a vehicle. The legislation has now been assigned Public Acts 1 and 2 of 2018 with immediate effect.

The move speeds up the phase-in of sales tax relief when consumers trade in their car to buy a new one. The legislation increases the cap on the trade-in value to $4,000 beginning Jan. 1, 2018 and to $5,000 by Jan. 1, 2019. The cap increases by $1,000 each year until fully implemented in 2028.

Michigan was one of only six states — and the only Great Lakes state — that taxed the value of trade-ins. I am pleased the new laws will help consumers save money when they buy a car.

 

Free Fishing weekend

Anglers, check out Michigan’s annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend! This great event falls on Feb. 17 and 18 this year. All fishing license fees are waived for residents and out-of-state visitors on both inland and Great Lakes waters for the two days. All other fishing regulations still apply.

Visit www.michigan.gov/freefishing for information on special events and activities. A Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Recreation Passport will not be required at any state park or recreation area during the free fishing weekend.

 

Save money: Buy your Recreation Passport when renewing car registration

A Recreation Passport provides easy access to more than 100 state parks and recreation areas in Michigan’s great outdoors.

Starting this year, the DNR is adding a $5 fee when buying the passport at state parks. Motorists can save money by buying the Recreation Passport online at www.expressSOS.com, by mail or at a branch office when they renew their car registration through the secretary of state. When motorists purchase a Recreation Passport while renewing their vehicle registration, it also allows them to access Passport Perks, a statewide shopping discount program. Visit www.michigan.org/dnr-perks to locate discounts by city and category.

 

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.