(WJBK) - Former Rep. Jim Townsend is long gone but his crusade to push a graduated income tax is being embraced by the new House Democratic caucus which discussed that and other priorities at a 6-hour retreat in Dearborn last Thursday.
One source described it as a chance to get to know one another, with 16 newbies in the Democratic ranks huddling for the first time off campus.
And to facilitate that process, at one point the caucus was divided into five separate groups and assigned a topic to discuss and there was an interesting twist - a fresh person lawmaker was tapped to run each session.
Former House Minority leader Dianne Byrum was the only guest speaker at the event staged at the old Ritz Carlton Hotel, now known as The Henry. She provided a list of "what to do and what not to do," but the thrust of her comments were directed at taking back the house in 2018 "and do something different," as one insider put it. This included what message to form and how to sell it as everyone has concluded the messaging last year did not produce the hoped for results.
As for the graduated income tax, which may be introduced as early as this week, that is the Democratic response to the income tax elimination strategy from the GOP side. When Rep. Townsend was in the caucus he had all sorts of data on how to sell this to the electorate but with the Republicans running the show in both houses, it had no traction. The same dynamic is in play but apparently the Ds will make another run at this even though it's likely to produce the same results unless the D's can find some way to leverage this issue in with priorities that the Snyder administration might have.
One source summed it up this way, "We were throwing a bunch of (expletive deleted) up against the wall to see what would stick."
The next caucus agenda item is caucus pictures on Wednesday including a group shot of the Women's caucus, all 14 of them.