Sunday, March 20, 2011

Unasked Question on Off the Record Lets Snyder Off the Hook

Sometimes, it's not the questions reporters ask but the ones they fail to ask that make a difference. And that was true with the latest version of Off the Record, as reported in newspapers.

Snyder's budget director John Nixon, whose idea of "shared sacrifice" is making a quarter of a million dollars a year, defended the tax on pensions during the taping of the show. But apparently no one bothered to ask him about the provision in the Michigan Constitution that says public pensions are contractual obligations and may not be impaired or may not be "diminished or impaired" in anyway.

I would like to know if Snyder thinks that provision applies to his tax on pensions and if not, why not.

This is important because if it precludes taxing public pensions, Snyder will be hard put to justify taxing private pensions. And he won't be able to tax federal pensions at all, since a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Davis v. Michigan, forbids discriminatory treatment of federal pensions compared to state pensions.

But for some reason, the state media shies away from asking Snyder about this, although Michigan Liberal has mentioned it. The fact is, if the pension tax were to pass, it almost certainly would be challenged in court, making it a phony part of the budget to begin with.

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