A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

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Rep. Lyons (L), Rigas (R)

West Michigan’s 86th District House GOP primary has featured attacks on the voting record of incumbent Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto. And the votes being questioned are almost all related to instances in which Rep. Lyons supported the policies of Gov. Rick Snyder.

Angela Rigas, also of Alto, a hair stylist and small business owner associated with the tea party movement, is the challenger in the race.

"I believe this race is about bringing accountability back to the Legislature and common sense back to government," Rigas said. "My opponent claims she is a conservative, but if she really was she wouldn't have voted 'yes' on Medicaid expansion, the Detroit bailout, the minimum wage increase, the Internet tax and the senior pension tax.

"People are really getting tired of voting for candidates who say they're conservatives but then — after being elected — vote like Democrats," Rigas continued. "Look at what has happened with issues like Medicaid expansion. They want us to believe things that just aren't so — like the idea that when the federal government stops sending the money to pay for it they'll vote to get us out of it. But almost all of the lawmakers who voted for it (Medicaid expansion) will be gone by that time. I think people are really getting fed up with this kind of stuff."

Rep. Lyons said she sees the primary election from a different perspective.

"The way I see it, this race is about experience, leadership and results," Rep. Lyons said. "I respect that every citizen has a right to run and believe it is important that elected officials need to have accountability.

"I'm proud to have helped lead a Republican-led Legislature that has seen Michigan's economy turn the corner," Rep. Lyons continued. "Leadership requires bold action, and in each of those instances, I supported the fiscally conservative alternative to a potential disaster. Additionally, my support for tax cuts and enacting fair, equitable taxation is indisputable. I am the only candidate who has a record of fighting for hardworking taxpayers and delivering real results to the people of Michigan."

Located in Eastern Kent County and part of four townships in Ionia County, including portions of the cities of Ionia and Belding, the 86th District has a huge 67.2 Republican base, based on averaging the turnout in the 2008 and 2010 elections.

Both candidates were asked to respond to questions on taxing Internet purchases, select business subsidies and teacher evaluations.

Q. One argument often used to support the Internet tax is that it levels the playing field for traditional brick-and-mortar businesses that have to tack sales taxes onto the price that their customers are required to pay, while entities that sell on the Internet quite often avoid adding these taxes in. However, doesn't this argument ignore the added shipment costs Internet purchasers are usually required to pay, which are often more expensive than the taxes the brick and mortars are required to collect?

Rep. Lyons:

Let's first be clear — we are not discussing an 'Internet tax' and I would not, under any circumstances, support taxing the Internet. The current discussion in Michigan is about leveling the playing field for Michigan based job providers. Local brick-and-mortar businesses are required by law to collect Michigan's 6 percent sales tax at the point of sale. Businesses located outside of Michigan are not currently required to collect Michigan's 6 percent sales tax. Instead, the law requires Michigan residents to report their Internet purchases and to pay their sales tax directly to the state.

What this uneven system does is give out-of-state, Internet-only sellers a 6 percent price advantage over Michigan job providers. Every time I speak with small business people — Michigan mom-and-pop employers — they tell me that this uneven playing field is costing them business every day and making it harder for them to grow, to hire or to even keep their doors open.

The tax shoppers are required to pay isn't any different, and leveling the playing field would not increase taxes once cent, but by virtue of the fact that out-of-state sellers aren't required to collect it at the point of sale, it gives them a major advantage over Michigan job makers. That's bad for our economy and bad for Michigan employers struggling to make their businesses work in an economy that is still recovering.

Many, and at certain times of the year, most, major out-of-state Internet sellers also offer customers free shipping on their purchases, eliminating the one cost barrier that might help offset the advantage they gain by being given a free pass on collecting Michigan's sales tax.

Rigas:

From what I can tell . . . regarding the background of this issue, I think there is a question about whether or not it [the so-called Internet tax] is unconstitutional. But beyond that there is this whole idea that — here we go again — we are being told we all have to pay yet another tax. Instead of government officials thinking in terms of spending less, they just keep finding more ways to take money from the people.

We already have more than enough taxes to pay. I don't believe we need to be passing a law like this.

Q. The most recent Auditor General's performance audit of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), which is known as the state's corporate welfare arm, found that only 19 percent of the jobs that MEDC originally projected would be created as a result of its projects if they ever actually materialized. MEDC supporters argue that these audits are measuring the past performance of MEDC and now under Gov. Snyder, the agency has been improved.

Looking forward to future audits, what level of performance would you consider adequate to justify the state continuing to fund MEDC: 25 percent of originally projected jobs; 35 percent? 50 percent?

Rigas:

To me, corporate welfare is an abuse. Government should not be able to try to pick winners and losers and its record of trying to pick winners is very poor. Just look at the big push for green energy. So my only answer to this question is that we just shouldn't be doing any of this in the first place.

Rep. Lyons:

In the private sector, projections need to be accurate in order to achieve success and the public sector should be held to the same standard. The projections should be considered good if they are on target.

Rep. Lyons was asked specifically about teacher evaluations:

Q. In 2011, the Legislature passed legislation requiring that the criteria for teacher effectiveness evaluations (which are used by schools for employment decisions) be based 50 percent on student academic progress as measured by actual results on state tests. But this year, with your support, legislation has passed that repeals the 2011 law and says teacher evaluations will be based on a system to be determined later. What is the reason for making this change?

Rep. Lyons:

Senate Bill 817 is a short-term solution so Michigan's waiver is not put in jeopardy while the legislature works on the educator evaluation legislation, House Bills 5223 and 5224, which resulted from the 2011 teacher tenure law. It pushes back 25 percent growth for the school year that just ended and 40 percent growth for next year 2014-15. It maintains 50 percent growth for 2015-16, which is consistent with the 2011 teacher tenure legislation. It doesn't repeal anything, rather gives the state time to establish an assessment that works best for Michigan's students and finalize the educator and administrator evaluation legislation.

Rigas was not asked about the teacher evaluation topic, however, during a telephone interview she said that she was skeptical about the way teachers are evaluated.

"I don't think the job a teacher is doing can be judged accurately based only on how their students do on tests," she said. "I believe in local control and I think evaluating teachers is something that should be done locally."

Editor's note: Michigan Capitol Confidential will be reporting and writing about key primary races leading up to the election on Aug. 5. The series of stories are designed to provide readers with some insight into candidates who have said they support free market issues. The stories are not endorsements and readers are encouraged to give every candidate a serious look before the election. 

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See also:

Contrast Over Right-to-Work, Film Subsidies, Detroit Bailout In 31st District Senate Race

Select Business Subsidies, Endorsements Are Differences In 37th District Senate GOP Primary

'He's Just Making That Up' - No Shortage of Attacks In 3rd Congressional District GOP Primary