Low-wage earners protected from EL income tax proposal

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Student employee

Christine Kanerva

“Most of this city is full of college students … and I already owe Detroit money because they don’t take city taxes out of my paycheck here, so to know that they’re going to take out for here and I’m going to still owe the city of Detroit is annoying,” said Domonique Caldwell

People who earn less than $5,000 a year would be exempt from a proposed city income tax on the Nov. 7 East Lansing ballot.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to set an income limit on who would be subject to the proposed tax.

Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier said, “When we first started looking at the income tax, this wasn’t in there at all. What we’re trying to do is respond to the students’ concern that too many students are paying the tax,”

Council members said they hope this will help those who are struggling financially, while still raising revenue to maintain services. Here is a Tax Infographic provided by the City of East Lansing to explain some of the questions regarding the proposal.

“I think it was the right move,” said Mayor Mark S. Meadows. “We were looking for a way to take care of low-income individuals, we realize that many students in our community are also low income, and so I think this will be helpful for them.”

The tax exemption, however, would cover only those making less than $5,000 a year, meaning individuals would have to make less than a fourth of the U.S. poverty level. According to Data USA, 43.6 percent of the population in East Lansing lives below the poverty line of $22,162 a year. The national average is only 14.7 percent.

Before the vote, Domonique Caldwell, a MSU student majoring in human development and family studies, has said she was not in favor of the income tax. “I already owe Detroit money because they don’t take city taxes out of my paycheck here, so to know that they’re going to take out for here and I’m going to still owe the city of Detroit is annoying.”

Meadows said he understands that college students make on average of $4,000 a year. That would most of the MSU student body would be exempt from the tax.

John Kloswick, an East Lansing resident and registered voter, said an income tax would make up for tax exemptions that the university.

“My thoughts are that the university is a big member in the community and they have tax-free property,” said Kloswick. “So they should start paying their full share by taxing their employees, making it proportional.”

Other issues discussed at the meeting included approval of contracts, resolutions to support the Constitutional Amendment to Create an Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission and to lower the charges and fines for being a minor in possession or MIP.

The Council approved the correlation of the Minor in Possession of Alcohol laws with the new state law. Recently, the State of Michigan gave power back to local governments for MIP charges.

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