Michigan Senate leader prioritizes tax cut proposal, in-person classes in 2022

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey vowed Wednesday to push for in-person classes for students and for tax reductions in 2022.

"We will return to Michigan families what we don’t need, proposing significant and broad-based tax reductions, trusting that moms and dads can spend their money more wisely than government," said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. 

He made the comments during a media briefing four hours before Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's State of the State address on Wednesday night. The GOP lawmaker painted a much different picture than Whitmer is expected to detail.

The state is suffering from "economic turmoil," "rampant" mental health emergencies,"rapidly accelerating inflation" and school closures, he said.

Michigan Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey

“The state of our state can best be described as a not so humorous rendition of 'Groundhog Day,'" Shirkey said. "Michiganders feel trapped in an endless treadmill of confusing, conflicting and inconsistent orders and mandates.”

The Senate leader has repeatedly clashed with the governor over how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. He opposed executive orders and mandates that the administration used in the first year of fighting the virus. However, Whitmer's team has generally avoided blanket requirements and restrictions since the spring of 2021.

On education, the wide majority of Michigan schools have been holding in-person classes this year. But some, including Detroit Public Schools Community District and Flint Community Schools, have taken instruction virtual this month amid spikes in COVID-19 infections.

School officials have connected the decisions to staffing problems and a state law that ties funding to a requirement that 75% of students be in attendance.

“Kids need to be in school, not in front of computers," Shirkey said Wednesday. "Teachers know this. Parents know this. Kids know this.”

"We will renew our effort to give parents … the tools and resources they need to work with teachers and make the individual education decisions for their children," he added at another point.

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a $2.3 billion tax cut proposal that would reduce the corporate income tax rate and the personal income tax rate.

Whitmer is expected to call for more targeted tax cuts in her State of the State address Wednesday evening as Michigan lawmakers face ongoing decisions about how to handle billions of dollars in surplus funds.

Shirkey said he plans to examine the Senate Finance Committee's legislation and to compare it with what the governor proposes.

He also said Senate Republicans would continue to push for investment in critical infrastructure in 2022.