Skubick: The Earned Income Tax Credit and the roads bill

It was at least a temporary win for needy families around the state and they can thank some senate Republicans for that.

Yes. You read that correctly, Republicans.

Normally the Democrats are the major defenders of the Earned Income Tax Credit, about $135 a year for needy families. Republicans have been more Quixotic about it starting with former President Ronald Reagan who thought it was one of the best welfare programs ever, but in the state legislature Republicans have supported it, then stopped it, only to start it again and recently it was under assault in the Michigan as it just barely avoided the budget cut again.

As the senate debate on the road fix package unfolded it was clear that a majority of Rs wanted to follow the lead of House Republicans and re-direct the $110 million from the program and, as the Democrats gleefully retorted, "pave the roads on the backs of poor people."

Former Democratic Sen. Gilda Jacobs was outside the senate chambers on Wednesday hours before the senate voted on the road plan. The advocate for the poor said the desire to slice state aid was "senseless and heartless"and driven by "ideology" which is code for Republicans like to blast welfare recipients because it wins them votes back home.

Sen. Joe Hune (R-Brighton) who is never bashful about taking on welfare spending was asked to check in on his former colleague Ms. Jacobs.

"Oh my Lord. I love and I am good friends with Gilda Jacobs but she's wrong on this issue…I think it's the right thing to do to get rid of it."

As for being senseless and heartless, he pleads not guilty. "Absolutely not."

As the day wore on, everyone assumed this EITC was toast even though the governor spurned the House GOP for killing the program weeks ago. He did not say squat about the same thing in the senate, but his lobbyist Dick Posthumus hinted the administration might try to preserve it however it could.

But when the dust settled, lo and behold and much to the surprise of the lobbyist s for the needy, the plan survived.

It was likely a handful of more moderate leaning Rs who apparently convinced the leadership to back off.

It was a delicate dance going on as Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof tried to marshall enough votes to pass a hefty gas tax hike and $700 million in cuts. Perhaps to keep as many Republicans in the fold as possible, he put   the EITC axe down.

And when you counted the noses of those Republicans who wanted to preserve the program, most of them voted for the leader's package.

And Mr. Meekhoff needed them as nine of his colleagues jumped ship and it's only because of a nifty legislative maneuver involving the lt. gov. and Detroit Democrat Virgil Smith voting for the tax hike that it passed.

In a nutshell Senator Arlan Meekhof and his pal Sen. Geoff Hanson got l.g. Brian Calley to stay out of town last Wednesday until he magically appeared at the 11th hour to cast the tie-breaking vote on the gas tax.

Had Mr. Calley shown his face any earlier, some of the Republicans who hated the gas tax hike could have pulled their no votes from the board thus negating a 19-19 tie  which Mr. Calley then broke with his 20th vote.

Mr. Calley refused to confirm this little slight of hand, but somebody else did.  

Nobody around here can remember the last time such legislative trickery was used to pass a bill. The bad news is, Mr. Calley doesn't serve in the Michigan House where the future of this road package is iffy at best and DOA at worst.