Michigan's Snyder pushes tax increase before a 2016 decision

AP News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2015 5:09 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is fighting for one more accomplishment before deciding whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination: Michigan's largest tax increase in decades.

The Republican governor said Wednesday a plan to raise Michigan's sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, set for a statewide vote in early May, is the "commonsense" move to repair the state's crumbling infrastructure.

"You do the math, and this is the right thing to do," Snyder, a former accountant, told The Associated Press in Washington, where he was receiving an award for bipartisanship and pragmatism.

Snyder's support for a tax increase sets him apart from recent Republican White House prospects, who have aggressively opposed tax increases under any circumstances. His push to promote the tax plan just as the Republican primary contest begins also underscores the former CEO's approach to governing regardless of the political consequences.

Little-known outside of Michigan, Snyder would not be a leading presidential contender should he run. He'd be the only one to have pursued a major tax increase less than a year before presidential primaries. Among potential contenders, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are better known for tax cuts.

While many Michigan business groups have supported the tax plan, some Republicans have turned against Snyder, who was elected to his second term last fall.

"I'm not suggesting that the governor has failed us," said Paul Mitchell, a former Snyder donor who now leads the group opposing the tax plan. But "it is the largest tax increase in 50 years."

"Those things matter to me," he said. "I think they will matter in the presidential race."

Snyder would not rule out a White House bid when asked Wednesday, saying "there's time to evaluate opportunities."

"Right now I'm fully occupied with looking at Michigan," he continued. "We have a ballot proposal May 5. And so that's my key priority."

After that, he plans to go "where people will have me" to talk about Michigan's strengthening economy.

Michigan's unemployment rate has fallen to 5.9 percent, its lowest mark in 14 years.

"When people say, 'You're not being responsible,' it's like, well, let's look at the total record here," Snyder said of the tax increase. "This is done in the context of being just as fiscally responsible."

Ten other laws will take effect only if the tax increase is approved. They would raise gasoline and vehicle registration taxes, steer more money to roads, bridges, public transit, schools and municipalities, and provide a tax credit to low-wage earners in a nod to concerns that sales taxes disproportionately hit the poor.

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Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.