Though it has been almost a month since that fateful day of December 18th, the last day of the 2013-2014 Lame Duck session in Lansing, I thought I should give some details about what happened.
That Thursday, the House and Senate convened at 10am. We finished 20 hours later, at about 6am on Friday. The Democrats in both chambers had their best day in four years. This happened mainly because, instead of working with conservative Republicans in the House to ensure there were no additional taxes coming out of citizens' pockets in order to fix roads, the Governor and Republican Leadership decided to steer left for the votes they needed to get a large tax increase.
There was little evidence that day that Republicans were in the majority. We saw Democrat-sponsored bills quickly brought up and passed – often with less than half the Republican members voting for them (no Hastert rule). This happened regularly, especially as it was clear that the Senate was having difficulty getting the 2/3 vote to put the tax hike on the May ballot. One could see deals being cut with Democrats – their liberal bills being approved – in order to get their support for the tax hike vote. Twice I tried to speak against parts of the sales tax hike package from the House floor and twice I was denied the ability to speak by the Republican leadership. They were intent on nothing negative being said about the massive tax increase legislation.
After the dust settled, the legislature had approved:
1. A constitutional ballot measure for a $1.2 billion per year sales tax increase (from 6% to 7%)
2. A $95 million per year increase in car registration fees
3. A Democrat-backed $300 million per year bonus for public schools
4. A Democrat-sponsored $260 million per year in additional welfare payments
5. A $130 million per year bonus for urban mass transit (the empty buses)
6. A large gas tax increase, that might approach "revenue neutral" if the price of gas were at $3.50/gallon, but at $2.00 or $2.50, it's a very large gas tax increase (despite what the Governor and GOP leaders are saying)
7. Some decent requirements for bidding and warranties for roads (no-brainer)
8. Requiring Amazon, Overstock.com and Ebay to collect sales taxes on Michigan citizens' purchases (so-called internet tax)
9. A Democrat-sponsored cyberbullying law that will be used to silence speech (45 of 59 Republicans voting "no")
10. A Democrat-sponsored $40 million bonus for disadvantaged public schools
11. A Democrat-backed study on the cost to 'adequately fund' public schools
12. Extend a $75 million corporate welfare subsidy program four more years
13. A decent change to the state FOIA law
14. A decent change in law to make Michigan more of a 'shall issue' state for concealed pistol licenses
#2 thru #7 and #11 above are tie-barred to the passage of the sales tax increase vote on May 5 (only goes into effect if the sales tax increase passes on May 5). This means that the legislature and Governor made the campaign leading up to the vote a very unlevel playing field. Those interest groups benefiting from the extra $690 million (3 thru 5 above) annually will most assuredly be working for passage of the vote. Of course the road builders and road bureaucracy that benefit from the $1 billion per year for roads will also heavily weigh in for a "yes' vote.
What happened that day and night and morning was nothing other than vote buying. Republican leaders decided that instead of working with conservatives in the legislature to come up with a no-tax increase plan to fund roads, they wanted to go to the Democrats for the support of a massive tax increase. Democrats and their liberal ideals, in turn, essentially ran the table.