A chess match at the Capitol | News, Sports, Jobs

If the state’s Democratic governor was engaged in a chess match with the GOP legislature, the Republicans would be grinning, because they have “boxed her in.”

She is not playing chess, but she is smack dab in the middle of a high-stakes election match over tax cuts, and she is, for the moment, not only boxed in by the R’s, both of her choices on how to get out of it are a lose-lose for her.

Without negotiating with the Governor’s Office on what it wanted to do, the GOP leaders have sent to the governor a very attractive tax cut program with savings for seniors, families with kids, and everyone else who pays the state income tax.

The nub of the package is a long-promised rollback of the income tax rate to 3.9%, which, if enacted, would produce a long-term budget deficit approaching $6.7 billion over the next few years. That finding is according to the nonpartisan House and Senate bean-counters, and it’s a finding the governor has latched onto to explain her non-support for the GOP tax cut plan.

Putting that money in your pockets is, of course, politically attractive, as the House and Senate Republicans run for office this year.

But the governor argues the program is irresponsible and will force the next governor to slice education, public safety, and other essential services to pay for the rollback.

Here’s her conundrum.

She’s running for her job, too. If she vetoes this thing, which she has said she plans to do, she is handing the Republicans a ready-made attack ad to stymie her reelection bid. It’s an easy ad to compose: “Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just killed a tax cut that would have put more money in your hands at this time of runaway inflation.”

The ad will make no reference to the alleged fiscal validity of all that or the Fiscal Agency assertion that state government might be forced to give back to the federal government billions of COVID-19 dollars that could have been used for state services.

A veto means she has to explain all that to the citizens who want the tax break. And everyone knows if you have to explain anything in two or more paragraphs, collective eyes glaze over, collective ears go deaf, and the governor, trying to justify her veto, will come out on the short end of the political stick.

It could cost her votes, which is part of the reason the GOP did it, in addition to their statement that it’s the people’s money and the state can afford to give it back.

However, if Whitmer signs it, she can’t walk back all her public criticism of the Republican plan and would look like a hypocrite.

For her part, the governor wants the other side to commence deep negotiations to draft a tax cut she can sign.

But will they work with her on that?

Or will they ignore her plea and be more comfy watching her squirm inside that box they just plunked her in?

Regardless of what happens, at this moment in time, the Gov. Queen on that chess board is in a heap of trouble.

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