News Story

'Ryan Budget' A Litmus Test for Michigan Politicians

The political theater known as the federal debt limit negotiation is unlikely to cure Washington’s overspending habit, but it is shining a brighter spotlight on one of the clearest, least-ambiguous political/policy choices presented to the American public in living memory: The Obama budget vs. House Republican “Ryan budget.”

Thinking that his side has an effective political club to use on Republicans, a Democratic state Senator recently offered an amendment inviting colleagues to publically take a swing at the Ryan budget. Here’s how it was described on

Amendment offered by Sen. Bert Johnson (D), to automatically repeal the provision of Gov. Rick Snyder's tax reform and business tax cut that partially eliminated some of the income tax exemption for pension income, if the U.S. Congress passes the Ryan budget cut and associated Medicare changes affecting those age 55 and under.

Five Michigan Republican state senators appeared to accept this apparent invitation to “diss” the Ryan budget. They were:

Dave Hildenbrand from Lowell, Rick Jones from Grand Ledge, Dave Robertson from Grand Blanc, Tory Rocca from Sterling Heights and Tonya Schuitmaker from Lawton.

However, Sen. Rick Jones told CapCon his voting intention wasn't related to the federal issue raised by the amendment: “I wasn’t dissing the Ryan budget. I was showing my opposition to the state pension tax.”

Sen. Dave Robertson went further, telling CapCon, "I wholeheartedly agree with the goals of the Ryan budget."

A spokesperson for Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker said her intention was to express disapproval for the pension tax provisions of the MBT repeal and business tax cut, but she did not know the senator's views on the Ryan budget. An answer to CapCon's request for those views had not been received by this article's publication deadline.

CapCon also did not receive a response from Sen. Dave Hildenbrand to the same follow-up question; Hildebrand did respond to an email asking about his vote, but the response did not include his position on the Ryan budget.

Sen. Tory Rocca did not respond to an email from CapCon asking about his vote.

According to a Reason analysis, the Obama budget proposes spending levels of “almost $6 trillion by 2021, while Ryan's plan comes in at more than a trillion dollars less, around $4.7 trillion,” and does so with lower taxes, deficits and borrowing. In April, just four Republicans jumped ship on a U.S. House vote to adopt the Ryan plan. Five Republicans joined all U.S. Senate Democrats to defeat the measure in May.* A Senate vote on the Obama budget went down 97-0.

Back in Michigan, one Democrat, Sen. Glenn Anderson of Westland, joined the other 21 GOP Senators in opposing the Johnson amendment.


* The Republicans were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who doesn’t think Ryan's budget cuts enough.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.