Citizen group pushes for closing tax loopholes

MARQUETTE – The executive director for Michigan Citizen Action is calling on area residents to contact their legislators in an effort to “end corporate tax breaks.”

“The Congress faces a choice – continue trudging down the austerity road of budget cuts and sluggish growth or turn to prosperity built on investing in our people and everyone paying their fair share of taxes,” said Linda Teeter during a Wednesday press conference in Marquette. “That choice is what the budget battles in Washington, D.C., will be this fall.”

Teeter said her organization – a citizen watchdog group working to ease the tax burden on the middle class – recently released a report titled “The High Price of Tax Loopholes,” which details “the sacrifices that working Michiganders have made so large corporations can reap the benefits of big tax breaks.”

“You can do medical research and invest in that or give tax breaks for CEO’s pay,” Teeter said. “Head Start for children or tax breaks for corporate jets. Food for low income people or tax subsidies for CEO’s … bonuses.”

State Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, was also on hand to offer some remarks.

Kivela spoke briefly about the Michigan Business Tax, which was repealed two years ago amid complaints from that it unfairly taxed certain businesses more than others.

“Some may argue that the Michigan Business Tax was fundamentally unfair to different businesses, and I probably fall in that category,” Kivela said. “It was unfair. Some businesses paid a lot more than others. But simply removing it was the wrong answer. If it’s unfair, make it fair to businesses. But when they removed it, it shifted that burden to the working families.”

Kivela said while corporations and the wealthy few were receiving tax breaks, the burden of making up revenue once provided by them has fallen to the working class and working poor.

“Tax fairness means corporations and the wealthiest of individuals need to be contributing their fair share,” Kivela said. “It means the fiscal burdens of growing Michigan’s economy, supporting our schools and caring for our elderly are not put entirely on the backs of middle class workers.”

Stu Skauge, Marquette and Alger County UniServ director for the Michigan Education Association, spoke about the struggle of Michigan’s schools in the wake of continual cuts to education.

“Schools can barely keep their head above water,” Skauge said. “Every politician, every elected official, every person on both sides of the aisle – Democrat or Republican – will tell you education is our future. If you want to move a business into an area, you have to have good education and when we’re not collecting enough taxes, people can get these loopholes and get out of paying their taxes, that’s going to translate into a real detrimental effect on our schools. And that’s happening. It’s not coming. It’s here.”

Teeter urged area residents to contact their elected officials at the state and national level to talk about taxation.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.