On February 3, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy announced that it had created Mackinac Center Action, a subsidiary organization that will operate under chapter 501(c)(4) of the federal Internal Revenue Code.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has existed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization since its founding in 1987. Mackinac Center Action is exclusively dedicated to advancing the policy priorities of the Mackinac Center.
Mackinac Center Action provides new tools that will improve our ability to drive policy change in Michigan, through grassroots advocacy, community building and lobbying.
As Mackinac Center President Joe Lehman put it, “Mackinac Center Action exists to do the business of the Mackinac Center.”
The full suite of MCA activities will be developed and evolve over time, but some initial projects have begun.
First, in collaboration with Americans for Tax Reform, the MCA website will host a Michigan Tax Hike Tracker. Modeled after the Mackinac Center’s Business Subsidy Scorecard, this webpage will track legislative votes to increase taxes and provide a running tally on how much of a total increase in taxes each legislator has voted for or against.
In the first month of the 102nd Michigan Legislature, the Tax Hike Tracker had its first vote: House Bill 4001. Michigan law as it existed at the start of 2023 had a trigger to cut the state’s personal income tax from 4.25% to 4.05% as soon as the state publishes its Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for the 2022 fiscal year.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leadership conspired to create a new tax-rebate fund and backdate by five months a contribution to the fund for the purpose of preventing the tax reduction trigger from taking effect. Had their plan worked, it would have forestalled the 0.2 percentage-point drop in the personal income tax rate, causing residents to pay more than they would have otherwise.
The final bill was written in a way that the rebate language expired at the end of 2023; rebates from the fund could only have been paid if the Legislature granted the law immediate effect. While the bill passed both houses, a unified caucus of Republican senators blocked immediate effect.
Thus the rebate scheme is dead, and Michiganders’ long-overdue tax cut has been preserved.
Bills included on the Tax Hike Tracker will be scored as the average annual revenue increase that would result from the bill’s passage over the first five years of implementation. In the case of House Bill 4001, legislators who voted for the one-time rebate to block the permanent tax cut had $721.6 million added to the total of tax increases they supported.
“The Tax Hike Scorecard will be a powerful tool in the fight against higher taxes and will serve as a constant reminder to legislators of their responsibility to Michiganders to resist the temptation to raise taxes and grow government,” said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. “This scorecard will hold politicians accountable as we pursue fiscal responsibility, limit the growth of government, and ensure that taxpayers’ hard-earned money is being spent wisely.”