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Published in Small Business

Business groups frustrated after Whitmer rejects second property tax relief bill

BY Tuesday, January 05, 2021 03:12pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has let legislation die that would have waived late fees and fines on businesses that have yet to pay their summer 2020 property taxes.

The governor’s pocket veto of Senate Bill 943 — which passed both the Republican-led state House and Senate in December — frustrated business advocates who pushed the legislation as a gesture toward small businesses that have been closed or had their operations limited by state order during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whitmer vetoed broader legislation on the issue in July, citing constitutional concerns as well as potential effects on municipal budgets.

Gov. Whitmer COURTESY PHOTO

“It seems like something so common sense on businesses that were ordered shut and we found the revenue for it and it was appropriated by the Legislature,” said Joshua Lunger, senior director of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Whitmer last week line-item vetoed the $5 million in a supplemental appropriations bill to cover the cost to the state and municipalities to forgive through Feb. 15 late fees and fines on unpaid property tax bills from last year. The bill would have helped small businesses that experienced economic hardship from the pandemic or the recent state restrictions that, unless extended, expire next week.

The Grand Rapids Chamber and other business groups hope the new Legislature will soon revisit the issue, Lunger said. He “fully anticipates” that business groups can find a sponsor to re-introduce the legislation in the new legislative session.

“There’s a lot of people who think this is not just common sense but the right thing to do,” Lunger said. “We’re going to pursue something. We’re not going to give up on it.”

Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley on Monday doubted that lawmakers could move fast enough to come up with and pass a new bill to make a difference for ailing small businesses that have been unable to pay their 2020 summer property tax bill.

“I don’t think it’s really possible to have another bill go through the process before it’s a moot point. So, unfortunately, that concept at least for last year’s summer taxes is probably dead,” Calley said. “It would have been a nice gesture to a lot of businesses that have been required to be closed.”

Whitmer also pocket-vetoed three bills that would have exempted from sales and personal property taxes the sale of automation and handling equipment used by wholesalers to fulfill orders from retailers. The legislation was written to benefit Grand Rapids-based Meijer Inc. for a Lansing-area distribution facility.

The cost to the state would have been less than $10 million annually, according to a recent House Fiscal Agency analysis.

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