LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Political TV ads are set to escalate in the final two months of the race between Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democrat Mark Schauer, as the campaigns and their deep-pocketed outside allies sharply focus their message to voters.
If the 20-odd ads that have already run in the contest are any indication, some themes will used time and again on the airwaves and on the campaign trail.
Snyder cut education funding. Schauer would take Michigan back to the failed era of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Snyder’s retirement tax changes left seniors to suffer. Schauer supported raising taxes.
Some charges are inaccurate or lack context the public might find useful. Here is an examination or synopsis of some top claims in the contest:
Did Snyder cut education funding by $1 billion in his first year?
No. There were cuts, but the fairest spending reduction directly attributable to the governor is roughly $450 million. He signed a budget that reduced overall K-12 funding by $235 million and university aid by $214 million.
The evidence used to support the $1 billion figure is a snapshot that disregards federal stimulus money drying up when Snyder took office, and later supplemental adjustments to both his first budget and the one he inherited. State-based K-12 spending — not including the federal aid that dropped off drastically — actually increased in all four budgets signed by Snyder, according to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency. Funding for universities, however, still is below when Snyder became governor.
Democrats complain he transferred some money from a fund that traditionally would have gone to K-12 districts and put it into higher education — a net $1 billion over four years, the fiscal agency reports. Such a move was first made by Granholm.
Republicans defend the fund shift as necessary to avoid even larger cuts to universities. Democrats note the way Snyder’s business tax cut was structured also permanently deprived the School Aid Fund of revenue. When adjusting for inflation and growth in schools’ employee retirement costs — liabilities Snyder has moved to address — revenue for other basic school spending is down 13 percent from a decade ago in traditional districts, according to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council.
Did Schauer support raising taxes?
Yes. But so did Snyder. As a state senator in 2007, Schauer voted to raise the state’s income tax and enact a new tax on services to balance a budget shortfall and avoid a protracted government shutdown. Lawmakers quickly repealed the reviled service tax and instead tacked on a surcharge to the Michigan Business tax, which Schauer also voted for.
What Republicans do not mention is the new income tax hike rate of 4.35 percent was supposed to gradually return to 3.9 percent. When Snyder took office, he and GOP legislators offset a $1.6 billion business tax cut and replacement of the MBT with a $1.4 billion increase on individuals, which included not letting the income tax rate drop below 4.25 percent.
So while Schauer helped raised the tax, Snyder helped keep it from going back to the pre-2007 rate. Snyder also is being attacked by Schauer as a tax hiker. Though his tax overhaul was a net cut in revenue, many residents are paying more because of the elimination or reduction of income tax exemptions for retirees, homeowners and renters, low-income earners and children. Snyder has also unsuccessfully called for raising gasoline and vehicle registration taxes to upgrade roads and bridges.
Have nearly 300,000 jobs been created during Snyder’s term?
Yes. In December 2010, the last month before the start of Snyder’s term, the state had nearly 3.87 million payroll jobs. As of July, there were 4.16 million, an increase of about 293,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Did Schauer fight to rescue the auto industry?
Yes. As a first-term congressman in 2009, he supported government loans for General Motors and Chrysler when the industry — the state’s lifeblood — was on the brink of collapse. President Bush initially stepped in and signed off on loans in late 2008. The following spring, Obama pumped billions more into GM and Chrysler and forced concessions from industry stakeholders, enabling the companies to go through swift bankruptcies. Schauer also backed the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” rebate program in 2009.
Snyder does not deny the importance of the industry’s resurgence in Michigan and has said while the bailout worked it has been overblown. He also says replacing the complicated old business tax with a simpler corporate income tax and other moves — such as passing a right-to-work law making union fees voluntary and eliminating unnecessary regulations — improved the business climate.
Schauer says while the economy is slowly getting better, the wealthy are benefiting and not the middle class.
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