- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - In a story Feb. 28 about a failed income tax cut vote in the Michigan House, The Associated Press incorrectly quoted a lawmaker who voted against the bill. Rep. Scott VanSingel said his and other Republicans’ votes would continue to “stay no,” not “say no.”

A corrected version of the story is below:

AP Interview: Speaker says failed vote not a bad outcome

House Speaker Tom Leonard is defending his unorthodox decision to allow the defeat of an income tax cut bill that’s a top priority for many majority Republicans

By DAVID EGGERT

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - House Speaker Tom Leonard on Tuesday defended his unorthodox decision to allow the defeat of an income tax cut that is the top priority for many majority Republicans, dismissing criticism from the “Lansing bubble” that the move may have irreparably divided the GOP caucus.

Leonard, who began leading the House in January, said he was proud to hold the vote early Thursday. The bill, which would reduce the 4.25 percent income tax to 3.9 percent over four years as long as the state’s savings account has $1 billion, failed 52-55 - three votes short.

Twelve of 63 Republicans joined all but one Democrat to oppose the legislation that also has been criticized by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder for budget reasons.

“I’m somebody that does what I say I’m going to do. I had a vast majority of our caucus that wanted this to go up,” Leonard told The Associated Press in an interview at his office after the first House session since the vote. “I promised them they’d have a voice. I knew I would take an immense amount of criticism inside the Lansing bubble for doing this. … I’m proud of the decision that I made. I have no regrets in making it.”

The eyebrow-raising move was unusual in the House because typically when there is insufficient support for a bill in the age of term limits, leadership will clear the voting board and try again later. This vote was official, which means the 12 Republicans are on record as opposing a tax cut.

“I’m one that doesn’t necessarily think a failed vote is a bad thing,” said Leonard, a third-term member from DeWitt. “This was about giving 40 to 45 members in my caucus that wanted this to go up for a vote a voice on something that was very important for them. Once you get outside this Lansing bubble, people view things much differently. … Many of the constituents that I talk to, they just assume that bills go up every day that fail.”

He dismissed the characterization of a deep “51 vs. 12” split in the majority. He said Republicans will unite to soon overwhelmingly approve Senate-passed criminal justice legislation and House bills that would subject the governor’s office and legislators to public records requests.

“The future is bright, and the caucus is ready to tackle big issues,” Leonard said.

Asked if he could try again for an income tax cut, he said “I don’t know.” He said he will keep the measure on the table, noting that a few hesitant Republicans wanted to see how the budget process plays out this spring and that the House GOP would have no “pride in ownership” if senators have other forms of tax relief in mind.

Leonard also disputed speculation that he pushed for the tax reduction so early in the two-year term to aid his potential run for state attorney general in 2018.

“I’ve made clear personally from the day I got elected speaker of the House what my top three priorities were,” he said, citing changes to the teacher retirement system, the mental health system and skilled trades training.

One of the Republicans who opposed the tax cut, freshman Rep. Scott VanSingel of Grant, said he was surprised by the vote and does not anticipate the legislation being revived.

“If you can tell me where we can cut $2 billion out of the budget, I would support the tax cut,” he said. “That question was never answered and until it is there’s at least 12 no votes that are going to stay no.”

VanSingel said of the vote: “I think it was meant to maybe intimidate a couple of us to flip by seeing our name on the board. And that didn’t happen. I really didn’t like being put in that position.” He said he can justify his vote and is not ashamed of it.

“I’ve been able to go back to my district and explain that vote and I’ve had overwhelming support for the way I voted,” VanSingel said. “But not all of my colleagues will have that same experience. Now they were put in a position of either a yes or a no, having to go back and have some angry constituents over a bill that was going nowhere, that we knew was going nowhere.”

He said he disagrees with Leonard’s strategy but remains “100 percent” behind him and wants to move forward.

Leonard said he thinks lawmakers should be responsive to their constituents and he has “no concerns about members having to be accountable on the votes they take.”

___

Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/david-eggert .

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