Editorial: Whitmer delivers double hit on Michigan businesses
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered a double hit to Michigan businesses, first by vetoing an extension of tax deadlines, and then by adding an extra cost burden on already struggling health care systems.
First, the veto. The Legislature with nearly unanimous support sent the governor a pair of bills that would have given businesses and individuals more time to pay their summer tax bills.
Because of the state-ordered shutdown to combat COVID-19, many businesses and families don't have cash on hand to meet their tax obligations.
But the governor declared the property tax bill too complex and vetoed it with no effort to resolve her concerns with the Legislature, even though lawmakers had established work groups to iron out their differences.
The second bill in the package would have allowed businesses to spread their July and August sales and use tax payments over several months. Again, this relief would have acknowledged the impact the shutdown has had on business owners.
In spirit, the bills seem little different than the executive orders Whitmer has issued protecting renters and residential water customers delinquent on their payments from evictions and shutoffs during the pandemic.
In another burden on the business community, Whitmer issued an executive order Thursday requiring all health care workers in the state to undergo implicit bias training.
Noting that African Americans make up just 14% of the state population and 40% of the COVID-19 fatalities here, the governor cited bias as one cause of the disparity and ordered the state's Licensing and Regulatory Agency to develop new regulations by November.
It may well be true that bias is one of many factors that explain the unequal impact of COVID-19.
But her order is an extraordinary intrusion on the private sector, and a stretch of temporary emergency powers intended to allow a governor to manage the immediate impact of a crisis.
Health care systems should be able to decide for themselves whether the care they deliver would benefit from bias training. Many private businesses have already made that decision.
But the governor’s blanket order takes the state deep into the employer-employee relationship, and does so without providing the resources to cover the cost of the training.
Hospitals and other medical facilities have taken a huge financial hit during the pandemic. If the state believes implicit bias must be addressed in the health care system, it should encourage the private companies to voluntarily adopt such training, and offer grants to pay for the added expense.
In both the veto and the training mandate, the governor is displaying an insensitivity to how her broad shutdown orders have affected the state’s business community.