Koenig: Tax freedom day, delayed

Andy Koenig

Michigan's real tax day this year isn't April 15th. It's April 20th.

On that day, the state's taxpayers have finally made enough money to pay their total tax burden for the year, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation. Starting the next day, you actually get to keep the money you make. This holiday has been dubbed "Tax Freedom Day."

But there's nothing worth celebrating when it comes to Michigan's and America's tax burden. It takes you more than 100 days this year before the money you earn is truly yours. That's roughly a third of your income every year that never makes it into your pocket. In fact, you're likely spending more on taxes than you will on food, clothing, and housing — combined.

It could be worse. It could also be much better. Compared to the rest of the country, Michigan is in the middle of the pack. The earliest Tax Freedom Day is in Louisiana, where taxpayers are liberated after April 2. Connecticut residents aren't done working to pay their taxes until May 13.

But no matter where you live, this day gets later every year. Tax Freedom Day 2015 is three days later than it was last year, and that was three days later than the year before. This trend shows no signs of stopping.

It's also hurting your local economy. When Tax Freedom Day gets later, it means that you and other hard-working Michiganians have less money to spend, save and invest in your own community. Instead, the money goes to politicians in Washington and Lansing who've never missed a chance to spend someone else's cash.

And their spending addiction is getting worse. Americans are expected to pay a total of $4.85 trillion in taxes in 2015 — $350 billion more than last year. About $1.5 trillion is divvied up among local governments and the 50 states. Washington gets the other $3.3 trillion — the most ever collected by the IRS.

Yet it's still not enough to pay for Washington's spending bonanza. This year, the federal government is expected to run a nearly $500 billion deficit — 47 percent higher than the deficit a decade ago. This helps explain why the national debt has more than doubled from nearly $8 trillion to over $18 trillion in the past ten years.

That's money that you and I are going to have to pay back. In fact, if we were paying enough to take care of the entire national debt, every American would have to forego his or her income for more than a year.

Which leads us to the most depressing fact of all. Most politicians — in Michigan and across the country — want to add even more to this mounting pile of debt.

In the coming weeks and months, Michigan's representatives in Congress will debate federal spending for fiscal year 2016. At stake are the modest budget restraints that bipartisan majorities passed in 2011. Four years ago, both parties agreed to pass the Budget Control Act, which raised the debt limit in exchange for modest spending limits. This law is one of the few bright spots of the Obama presidency.

But that bipartisan agreement may soon disappear. Representatives on both sides of the aisle already claim that the Budget Control Act will lead to "drastic cuts," even though Washington will spend more in 2015 than it did last year.

It's up to you to stop them from breaking their promises. Michiganians need to keep their representatives from blowing past those budget limits. Washington is already spending — and wasting — too much of your hard-earned money. Michigan can't afford for Tax Freedom Day to get any later than it already is.

Andy Koenig is senior policy adviser at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.