2017 in Lansing saw lawmakers succeed on some issues, fail on others


Michigan lawmakers attempted to tackle big issues in 2017.

Some of their efforts were successful but others, not so much.

In January, Michigan lawmakers plunged into icy political waters. The first order of business was to eliminate the state's 4 percent personal income tax.

"I think people, having that money in their pockets, reinvesting it into our economy will actually grow our economy," said state Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

The push failed in the House, after Gov. Rick Snyder fought the Republican proposal. Allies of the governor said scraping the tax would have blown a hole in the budget.

Democrats pushed back too.

"We talk about getting rid of the income tax without a way to replace that revenue could be a disastrous impact on our police force, our fire, our roads,” said state Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo.

Afterwards, House Republicans took a crack at lowering the high cost of Michigan’s auto insurance rates.

"Folks in Detroit right now are paying between $3,000 and $5,000 per month for their insurance premiums,” said state Rep. Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt. “That is per vehicle and that is unacceptable."

The speaker's plan crashed and burned when the healthcare lobby put up road blocks.

"In fact, for drivers who want to keep their current coverage, there is no rate relief whatsoever," said Laura Appel, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Also on the agenda: taking up controversial reforms to address Michigan's unfunded liabilities. In the end, Republicans reformed the plan, which firefighters and police officers fought to protect.

"I think the sensible thing to do is put this terrible plan away," said state Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint.

Lawmakers also passed retirement reforms to public school employees. But it wasn't easy.

Speaker Tom Leonard and Sen. Arlan Meekhof at one point iced out Gov. Snyder in negotiations.

"If the governor wants to see movement on the budget I'm hopeful he will be willing to talk about fixing the teacher pension system," said state Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Township.

One area where Snyder and the majority of lawmakers found common ground on was bringing big business to Michigan.

"It's something that could definitely benefit my part of the state," said Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City.

In the summer, lawmakers sent the Good Jobs for Michigan plan to Snyder's desk. At the time, Snyder was reportedly in talks with Foxconn to bring a plant to Michigan.

Foxconn chose Wisconsin, but lawmakers hope their big business tax incentives will lure other job creators such as Amazon to build businesses in Michigan.

"Michigan is doing well. But let's do even better," Snyder said.

The governor also laid the ground work for the Michigan Thrive Initiative. The goal of that plan is to revitalize vacant buildings and contaminated sites.

The governor and lawmakers also focused on positioning Michigan as the epicenter of the next generation of vehicles.

"Ultimately this leads to more jobs," said state Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona.

Southeast Michigan is now cultivating driverless technology, poising the state to remain the automobile capitol of the world.

Yet as the governor tries to spur economic growth in Michigan, he's calling out Canadian oil company Enbridge for their operation of Line 5.

"I'm absolutely concerned,” Snyder said. “We've had more than one failure to communicate appropriately."

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