Legislative Report for MAT Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant June 2013
With the U.S. Senate expected to approve the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, state officials and many Republican Michigan legislators support the move, especially as the latest estimates from the Michigan Department of Treasury show losses from sales both through mail order and the Internet could total $491 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year. The Michigan Department of Treasury supports the proposal and argues the issue has always been and remains one of tax fairness.
Michigan is one of 24 states that is part of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which has been in place since 2005. Under the agreement, the states work together to develop smoother administration of sales tax collections and distribution, including collections of taxes from catalog and Internet sales. Also, since 1999, Michigan has included a line in its tax return that would let individuals pay use tax on sales they had made. The most recent data on those collections comes from 2011 when approximately $5.6 million was collected from nearly 108,000 taxpayers.
This House Tax Policy Committee has been debating HB 4202 and HB 4203.The bills force the collection of the sales and use tax on purchases made through on-line entities that have affiliations in the state. Supporters of the bills, such as the Michigan Retailers Association say the bills provide main street fairness. Retailers testifying on the bills this week say they feel like they have a 6 % disadvantage when customers want them to complete on price and being required to charge sales tax.
Governor Rick Snyder held his first 2013 Forest Products Summit in Lansing. The Summit brought together about 150 representatives from industry, government, the financial sector and academia to stimulate conversations for growing the state’s forest products industry. Governor Snyder addressed the group with his usual optimism, enthusiasm. Snyder encouraged the group to take a strategic and collaborative approach to reinvention.
J.R. Richardson, chair of the Natural Resources Commission and the Timber Advisory Council, commented that Snyder’s interest in holding the summit illustrates his commitment to the forest products industry, especially in making it a part of his mission to reinvent the state. Richardson also commented that the Summit sets the stage for the future of the timber industry and for support of land based industries in Michigan. Following presentations, panel discussions and breakout work-group sessions, Bill O’Neill, chief of the Department of Natural Resources Forest Resources Division, reminded attendees that in order to be successful, discussions need to continue beyond the Summit.
The Timber Advisory Council will use the five year goals it endorsed prior to the summit to move forward with the ideas and opportunities discussed.
The goals included:
Increasing the export of value added timber products by 50 percent
Increase forest products related careers by 10 percent
Supporting existing industry, and
Encouraging regionally based industry developments
DNR Director Keith Creagh closed the Summit by telling attendees that the TAC will be tasked with looking at the outcomes and focusing on the opportunities and impediments to the growth of the forest products industry in Michigan. Creagh said “The next steps include charging the TAC to put form and structure to the ideas presented at the Summit. We will continue to assure the long term sustainability of this resource for all the people of Michigan.”
House Bill 4242, legislation requested by GLTPA, has passed the House and now awaits debate by the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. The bill requires new administrative rules be necessary and not overly burdensome to an individual. The point of differences between sponsors of the Qualified Forest Act bills and Governor Rick Snyder appear to be resolved. The Governor is expected to sign the bills into law.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to work towards a road funding solution. The log/farm plate and other specialty plates are in jeopardy because committee Democrats are threatening to withhold their votes if the specialty license plates are NOT eliminated. House leadership does not have enough Republican votes for a road budget plan and are trying to “bargain” with Democrats for votes. The leading House Democratic Committee legislator, Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser) opposes specialty license plates and the 160,000 weight limit. Representative Lane is being very vocal about her opposition. We continue to work with our legislative friends to maintain the log plate and I encourage you to write, e-mail or call your legislators to encourage them to maintain the log plate and explain to them your reasons to keep the plate.