AARP to lawmakers: Use surplus to help seniors

It’s the billion-dollar question: what to do with the state’s budget surplus, and advocates for seniors say the answer is to ease the burden older Michiganders have been carrying since being hit with a series of tax hikes in 2011.

According to Lisa Dedden Cooper, manager of advocacy for ARRP Michigan, using the budget surplus to reverse some of that damage would have a ripple effect through the state’s economy.

“Americans age 65 and older spend 84 to 92 percent of their income, and that’s a higher proportion than other age groups, and also older adults tend to spend a larger share of their income locally,” she declared.

AARP Michigan estimates that the combination of the state pension tax, the elimination of the $2400-per-senior tax exemption, and the increase in property taxes because of changes in the homestead tax exemption has cost Michigan seniors more than $650 million per year. Governor Rick Snyder is expected to make public his budget proposal later this month.

Dedden Cooper stated that the tax increases hit seniors at the same time Michigan residents are facing an erosion of their retirement security in other ways.

“We’ve got increased threats of cuts to Social Security and Medicare at the federal level, there’s been a decline in the value of their homes, and now we also have increasingly a reduced level of confidence that pensions promised to workers will be fully honored in their retirement.”

In his State of the State address, Snyder said he would approve of using the budget surplus for giving tax relief to those who need it most, though he did not give specifics and says many proposals remain on the table.

This story was provided by Mona Shand with the Michigan News Connection.