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Will Gov. Snyder Get Stuck With 'Tax Hiker' Label?

Roads plan could tilt the scale to a net tax increase

Gov. Snyder

Is Gov. Rick Snyder a tax cutter or tax hiker?

Persuasive arguments could be made either way. He is so close to the line that it would come down to some technical interpretations.

However, if Gov. Snyder were to get the gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases he has proposed, that would tip the scale to a net increase in his first term. Barring follow-up cuts to offset the road funding tax increases, his first term could end with an overall increase in taxes.

"There's no question that a lot of people are already irritated by his pension tax," said Inside Michigan Politics Editor Bill Ballenger. "I hear people commenting about that quite a bit. Anything along those lines can cause problems for a governor in an election."

In 2011, Gov. Snyder signed a series of bills that taxed some pensions that previously were exempted.

Democratic Political Consultant Mark Grebner of Practical Political Consulting said a "tax hiker" label would not necessarily depend on Gov. Snyder signing a gas tax or registration fee increase into law.

"It wouldn't exactly be a problem all by itself," Grebner said. "I think right-wingers can hold it against Snyder that he even asked for the increase. I'm not sure it makes a difference whether the Legislature gives it to him or not. What could really hurt him is what is happening this tax season as everyone figures out that he's raised taxes on almost everybody who isn't a business.

"My theory is that Snyder isn't going to run again," Grebner continued. "I think he's gotten what he wanted and doesn't have much to gain by having a second term. He wanted businesses to stop paying taxes and he wanted the bridge. Now the business community wants roads — so he wants roads, too."

Democratic strategist Robert Kolt, of East Lansing-based Kolt Communications, said the tax hiker label could spell trouble for Gov. Snyder. Kolt also said he's not sure the overall validity of the label would be what really mattered.

"I think it could have an effect on a lot of people," Kolt said. "Not so much that he is or isn't a net tax hiker as much the sense that he's raised a lot of people's taxes. By that I mean it would be something they had personally experienced."

Dennis Darnoi, of Densar consulting, is a Republican consultant. Darnoi said being seen as a tax hiker could make things awkward for Gov. Snyder and the Republicans.

"I would think that one of the things that would seem to be a flashing red light was the closeness of the race (in which Bobby Schostak was barely re-elected) for Michigan Republican Party Chair," Darnoi said. "Being seen as a tax hiker would seem to be something Gov. Snyder wouldn't want to be carrying as a candidate in 2014. I think it could increase the possibility of a primary challenge from the right.

"I don't know that I would expect a challenge from the right to be successful," Darnoi continued. "But it wouldn't be the type of situation an incumbent governor would want to go through, or to be coming out of, as he goes into a general election. That said, a more significant problem might be how it would affect other Republicans who are running.”

Emily Palsrok, managing director of Lambert Edwards & Associates, said she's convinced Gov. Snyder sees things primarily from a policy point of view.

"I don't think this governor looks at it in those (political) terms," Palsrok said. "I think he looks at what he believes is needed and goes after it. He believes we need $1.2 billion for roads and bridges, so he throws that out there. But, who is to say that the Legislature won't find other ways of getting that funding by making some cuts elsewhere? If that were to happen, it will be interesting to see what he does."