No plans are in the works for local taxes on food, pop or chewing gum in Michigan but the Republican-controlled state Legislature is ready to ban them anyway.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill on Thursday that prohibits municipal taxes or regulations on sweetened foods and beverages, one day after a House committee approved a similar bill.
Supporters of the measures say they worry about the economic impact of such mandates by cities and townships. But the Michigan Municipal League calls the proposal a solution in search of a problem since no communities are considering such an excise tax.
The bills are the latest move by the Legislature to block local control on a wide array of issues. Over the past two years, lawmakers have taken aim at local ordinances that would tax disposable plastic bags, tighten gun controls and establish sanctuary cities. Other aspects of this urge to preempt or override local laws center on minimum wage hikes, Airbnb rentals, cigarette sales, improper questions posed during job interviews, and benefits for employees that go beyond state law.
Business groups support many of these state restrictions because they say a patchwork of rules and regulations across the state harms employers. Opponents of limits on local control counter that cities who have seen their revenue sharing from the state drop dramatically are looking to excise taxes to help pay for public services.
The latest debates in the state Capitol represent a stark departure from the past, with Republicans and Democrats changing side on the issue of local control.
As Ted Roelofs wrote for Bridge Magazine in June:
… Lansing’s recent activism to restrict local decision-making seem(s) like a reversal of the old orthodoxy.
It was Democrats who were usually stereotyped as the party of big government, always looking to distant bureaucrats for solutions to local problems. Republicans, by contrast, historically stood for the notion that locally elected officials (that is, those officeholders closest to the people) best understood the priorities and values of their communities.
Lately, Republicans in Lansing have found reasons to tell communities what they can and can’t do.