Late ad misleadingly claims Republican gubernatorial candidate could ‘cut’ state police funding
Tudor Dixon, Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, is proposing to phase out the state’s personal income tax, though she did not specify how she would reduce state government spending to compensate for the loss of income.
Since the tax helps fund the state police budget, a group backed by the Democratic Governors Association released an ad in the final days of the primary claiming that Dixon’s “dangerous budget plan could cut ” the state police budget, resulting in “fewer cops on the streets, making Michigan less safe.
But whatever cuts might be necessitated by the elimination of state income taxes, Dixon’s campaign website says she believes in “fully funding law enforcement.” and she promises to “never cut funding to law enforcement agencies or public safety initiatives.”
This kind of political attack is not new. It’s easy to promise tax cuts without detailing commensurate spending cuts or other revenue increases.
Given that almost all states including Michigan, demands a balanced budget, opponents of candidates who propose tax cuts often fill in the blanks. They warn voters about cuts to popular programs that could result from proposed tax cuts — even if the candidate proposing the tax cuts may or may not support those specific cuts.
This is the case with this ad from Put Michigan First, a group supported by the Democratic Governors Association. The group bought $2 million in commercial time to run the ad in the final days before the August 2 primary election.
A narrator in the ad says, “You want to run Michigan, you gotta keep people safe. But Tudor Dixon’s dangerous budget plan could cut Michigan State Police by up to $500 million, threatening funding for thousands of law enforcement jobs. The Michigan Association of Police Organizations says Dixon’s approach would have a devastating impact on police budgets, leaving law enforcement crippled. Tudor Dixon’s devastating plan would mean fewer cops on the streets, making Michigan less safe.
at Dixon campaign website page on the issue of economics touts Dixon’s plan to “[d]develop and implement a plan to phase out Michigan’s personal income tax,” but goes on to note, “We will never cut funding to law enforcement agencies or public safety initiatives. … [W]We believe in fully funding law enforcement and providing them with the resources they need to keep our communities safe. (That last part, vowing not to cut law enforcement funding, was not included on this page A week ago.)
Dixon did not say how many years it would take to phase out personal income tax, but she critical his opponent in the Republican primary, Kevin Rinke, for proposing to eliminate the 4.25% income tax more quickly – by 2024 – without providing a plan to compensate for this loss of income.
“He’s just planning to cut that revenue without a plan, so obviously that would do what (the Democrats) are attacking me for,” Dixon said during a meeting with the Police Officers Association of Michigan on July 27, the Detroit News reported.
“The idea that this attack ad came out and said I would one day cut funding for the police is rubbish,” she said at the event with the police.
When asked in a July 10 interview with WDIV in Detroit where it would cut spending to accommodate the tax cuts it is proposing, Dixon has only said she supports the plan introduced by the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature earlier this year. The legislator offers reduce the personal income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9% without reducing funding for the state police. This proposal was vetoed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. But this is only a relatively small reduction in personal income tax, rather than eliminating it altogether.
According to Detroit NewsDixon said revenue lost from the personal income tax phaseout would be replaced by new taxes imposed on out-of-state tourists.
Sam Newton, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, pointed out that the announcement only says the Dixon plan “may” (not “would”) cut state police funding.
“The state income tax that Dixon wants to ‘phase out’ provides over $7.7 billion to the state’s general fund,” Newton told us in an email. “And the state’s general fund is ‘the primary source of funding for the … State Police Department,’ covering $552 million of the national police budget in 2022-2023. (The total state budget is $76 billion for fiscal year 2023, including a total general fund of $15.2 billion, according governor’s office.)
The announcement, he said, “simply indicates the basic calculations involved: if your plan depletes more than $7.7 billion from the general fund and the general fund provides $552 million from the state police, then your plan could cut $500 million (or more) from the state police budget.
The qualifier “could” does a lot of work here.
First, the on-screen text does not match what the narrator is saying. As the narrator speaks, viewers see this definitive on-screen statement: “Tudor Dixon cut up to $500 million from the state police.”
And the ad’s narrator goes on to say that “Tudor Dixon’s plan would have means fewer cops on the street. (emphasis added)
Dixon has also appeared on Fox News in recent days to push back against advertising claims that she is cutting police funding. “I constantly talk about putting more money into policing, making sure our cities are safe,” Dixon said. Told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on July 28. The next morning she was Again on Fox News. “They know my platform has been to go around and say we want to make sure we take care of the police,” Dixon said.
It’s true. For example, during a meeting Last April, when asked how Michigan could hire and retain good police, Dixon replied, “We seriously need to fund the police. We must defend our police officers. We must support our police officers. And we have to train our police.
Dixon’s campaign sent letters to TV stations asking them to pull the Put Michigan First ad. According to Detroit Newsan attorney for the Dixon campaign said the ad was “false” and told the stations they had a “legal obligation not to air such libel intended to mislead Michigan voters.”
Lawyers for Put Michigan First replied, tell TV stations that the ad was factually correct and that “Mrs. Dixon does not want be held responsible for the consequences of its tax policy. … Ms. Dixon is free to buy airtime on your station to explain how she would fill the funding gap her plan would create.
Lawyers for Put Michigan First also defended the ad’s claim that the Michigan Association of Police Organizations said “Dixon’s approach” would be “[leave] crippled law enforcement. It was the Michigan Association of Police Organizations. Evaluation of a 2017 bill to eliminate the state’s personal income tax.
According to Detroit NewsMichigan’s personal income tax revenues accounted for about 16% of the overall budget.
“Cutting this amount of money from the budget would be a dramatic change in the operations of state government and would likely mean cuts in funding for schools, roadworks and other services, if revenue is not replaced. “, says the story.
But again, we don’t know how Dixon would cut the budget if she phased out personal income taxes. We have repeatedly contacted the Dixon campaign about this, but have not received a response.
It may be tempting for opponents of people proposing tax cuts, without also specifying spending cuts or other revenue increases, to suggest what kinds of specific programs could or would be cut as a result. But in this case, Dixon explicitly said funding for state law enforcement would not be affected.
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