August 23, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Gov. Rick Snyder expresses support for aide Rich Baird

Richard Baird (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Novi— Gov. Rick Snyder expressed support Saturday for a close confidant who underpaid his Michigan property taxes the past three years — a day after Democrats called for the gubernatorial aide’s ouster.

Snyder aide Rich Baird on Friday paid $16,700.55 in additional property taxes for 2011, 2012 and 2013 — including $3,202.12 in interest — on his Clinton County home after it was revealed Thursday that Baird also was claiming a principle residency tax exemption on his home in Chicago. Homeowners can only legally claim one home to be exempt from the 18-mill property tax that supports school districts.

Michigan Democratic Party officials this week called on Snyder to fire Baird immediately. Baird is a longtime business associate of the governor’s, dating back to their time at the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“Rich Baird made a couple of errors ... and he’s responded already to address those and he did it very promptly and well and I think that puts this behind us,” Snyder told reporters Saturday at the Michigan Republican Party’s convention in Novi.

Baird has said he thought he kept his principle residence in Chicago, even though he registered to vote in Michigan and ran for precinct delegate through the Snyder’s campaign to boost support for Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at Saturday’s nominating convention. Baird did attend the state convention as a delegate.

“People moving from state-to-state, states have different rules and it can be challenging at times,” Snyder said. “The main thing is, it was pointed out, it got addressed and it’s hopefully resolved.”

The Lansing political newsletter Michigan Research & Information Service first reported Thursday on Baird’s dual residency.

Baird serves as Snyder’s transformation manager, a loosely defined job title that has involved him in recruiting key appointees for the governor, including Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

Baird has been a source of controversy for Snyder in the past as he played a role in creating a once-secretive education reform work group and securing massive double-digit pay raises for Treasury Department investment employees. He also worked to establish the Education Achievement Authority, Snyder’s embattled urban school reform program in Detroit.

Until last fall, Baird had been working off the government books being paid $100,000 annually under contract by Snyder’s non-profit, the New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify, or NERD Fund.

Lon Johnson, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Friday that Snyder should send Baird packing back “to Illinois where he belongs for good.”

Snyder brushed off the Democrats’ charges that Baird’s double tax exemption was tantamount to a scandal within his administration.

“A lot of politics are going on, there’s an election in November and people are being very political,” Snyder said.

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