Snyder adviser pays $16,000 in property taxes as Dems urge his firing

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Top gubernatorial adviser Rich Baird paid more than $16,000 in property taxes and interest to settle a problem with his dual Michigan and Illinois residences Friday as Democrats called for his firing.

Clinton County Clerk Tina Ward said Baird came in Friday morning and paid $16,700.55 in additional property taxes for 2011, 2012 and 2013 — including $3,202.12 in interest — on his Bath Township home near Lansing.

He owns two houses because he splits time between his work in state government here and the Illinois home where his family still lives.

Because of what a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder described as an inadvertent error, both of Baird’s homes had been classified as his principal residences.

In Michigan, homeowners get an exemption under which they don’t pay full school district property tax rates of up to 18 mills on their principal residences. They do pay the full tab on secondary homes and cottages.

Friday’s payment by Baird covers the higher tax bill owed on the Bath Township home when it’s not classified as his chief residence, Ward said.

Baird evidently decided to continue claiming the Illinois house as his main residence and pay higher property taxes in Michigan.

Democrats weren’t appeased and said Baird should lose his state job for enjoying a tax advantage to which he wasn’t entitled.

Snyder’s transformation manager “should be fired, without delay,” Democratic state Chairman Lon Johnson said Friday. “Scandal and controversy has surrounded the Snyder-Baird relationship from the beginning.”

Baird’s property tax problem surfaced Thursday in a media report that said he also improperly was registered to vote in both states.

But Snyder press secretary Sara Wurfel said the voter registration issue occurred only because Illinois hadn’t updated its records since Baird obtained a Michigan driver’s license and registered to vote here in 2013.

Wurfel promised Baird would make sure his name is stricken from Illinois registered voter rolls.

Baird isn’t the only one in state government who has had a home tax exemption problem. State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, in February blamed a “broken” property tax system that allowed her and her husband to double-claim principal residences in both Detroit and Dearborn, a mistake she promised to fix.

The move lowered the Tlaibs’ annual tax bill on a rental house in Dearborn by 18 mills and shortchanged the Dearborn School District by about $350 annually.

Tlaib said her husband, Fayez, mistakenly claimed the homestead property exemption on the Dearborn house on Tireman Avenue when he combined the property with an adjacent vacant lot in 2008. Tlaib said they have a rental license from Dearborn and had rented the home to her sister.

“It’s kind of sad where we have a broken system where somebody can have two personal residences and nothing gets caught ... and you can have two driver’s licenses and they catch it,” Tlaib told The News in February.

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