LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Rinke said Monday that his "bold" proposal to eliminate Michigan's personal income tax would help residents and also sets him apart in a crowded 10-person primary field, though he didn't detail how he would address the budget ramifications.
Rinke, who launched a 10-day bus tour with a stop at Lansing's Fleetwood Diner, said ending the 4.25% tax would position the state for growth alongside other states that don't have income taxes, such as Texas and Florida.
"We're going to put that money in the people's pockets when inflation is killing them, when the cost of living is really going after those families," Rinke, a businessmen who is spending millions of his own money to run, told The Associated Press. "They're going to spend it. There's taxes that are generated in different ways. So it's not like the budget gets cut $11 billion. It's the people and how they choose to spend their money (that) reenergize the budget."
Michigan's individual income tax generated $11.7 billion during the 2020-21 fiscal year and accounts for roughly 30% all state tax revenue. It primarily goes to the general fund but also is used to fund public schools and road and bridge construction.
"It's going to take bold leadership to turn Michigan around," Rinke said. "Repealing the state income tax is the first step towards creating an environment for the people of Michigan to be successful. It's bold."
He didn't specify how he would pay for the tax cut, except to say that state spending has risen substantially during the administration of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who's up for reelection and who has called for targeted tax cuts for seniors and lower-income workers. He said that if he wins, he would repeal the tax by the start of 2024.
"We've got plenty of time to work with the Legislature to figure out how we're going to do it," Rinke said.
Democrats have criticized his plan since he unveiled it less than a week ago. They note that it would slash billions from the general and school aid funds along with $600 million in transportation funding.
"He won't answer basic questions because he knows his backwards vision would leave Michigan communities less safe, public school students out in the cold and our infrastructure without the resources it needs to keep improving," said Rodericka Applewhaite, spokesperson for the state Democratic Party.
Also Monday, the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers said it will rule May 26 on challenges to nominating petitions gathered by three top Republican candidates for governor — former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, businessman Perry Johnson and conservative former TV news host Tudor Dixon. If too many of their voter signatures are deemed invalid, they won't qualify for the ballot.
The state elections bureau plans to make recommendations to the board May 23.
Democrats lodged complaints against all three last week, alleging, among other things, forgery by some paid circulators. A super PAC supporting Dixon filed a challenge against Craig, too.
State elections director Jonathan Brater said that if there's evidence signatures were forged, staff will more closely scrutinize other signatures gathered by those circulators, including signatures collected for other candidates.
The challenges also allege that people signed the candidates' petitions more than once and signed petitions for other candidates running for governor. They allege other issues, too, including that signatures were written by dead voters and, in Dixon's case, that all of her petitions have an inaccurate heading.
The candidates have denied the accusations, calling them politically motivated.
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