During a Thursday evening virtual town hall meeting with several Michigan television stations, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer didn’t rule out a tax increase to overcome a budget shortfall after the coronavirus pandemic.
Whitmer was asked how the state would grapple with “sudden job losses and declining sales,” which have impacted income and sales taxes, and whether she would seek hiking taxes to deal with the decline.
During her two minute response, the governor angling to be Joe Biden’s running mate didn’t answer the question.
“Well, like states all across the nation, we have taken a real economic hit in our households, in our businesses, and in our state budget as well,” Whitmer said.
“There is no question that we are going to have to make a lot of tough decisions. Now, the federal government has passed a couple of supplementals. My hope is that there’s another one coming for state budgets and local budgets for our municipalities, our cities,” she continued.
“I think it’s really important that we have the flexibility we need to meet the needs of the people of our states because we are different. We are not all the same,” Whitmer said.
“And we’ve got— we’re going to have some really important things that we’ve got to do as we reengage,” she said.
She then used children to illustrate why a tax increase may be necessary.
“For instance, we need to make sure that we’re able to wrap our kids with the support they need so that the learning loss that we see over a typical summer isn’t worse because we had to be out of in-person instruction longer than the usual summer,” Whitmer said.
“We’re going to have costs associated with COVID-19 that we could never have predicted and that are going to be hard to make sure that they are invested in because we’ll probably have about a $3 billion hit to our general fund in this year,” she continued.
“And so that’s why governors across the country including Republican and Democratic governors are banding together to try to get Congress to move this forward,” Whitmer said.
President Trump is “expressing skepticism” about the concept, NBC News reported.
Whitmer praised Michigan members of Congress, Republican and Democrat alike.
“I am hopeful … that they help us out because the state and the city, unlike the federal government, can’t run deficits. We have to have balanced budgets and so assistance out of Washington, D.C. — our taxpayers — need to come back into Michigan to help us get through this global pandemic,” she said.
Whitmer began her tenure in office by calling for a $.45 per gallon gas tax increase, which would have led to Michigan’s fuel tax being the highest in the country.
Her proposal was never considered by the Republican-led legislature.