Appraising the Political Landscape
It was evident that Rep. Dave Maturen knows a thing or two about local government as he met a group of nine Comm-PAC members for a “Get to Know” event on Tuesday, Aug. 29, at Water Street Coffee in Portage.
Serving at a variety of levels, including as a Brady Township trustee for 14 years and a Kalamazoo County Commissioner for 12 years before serving at the House level, Maturen has more than 28 years of experience in local office. That experience makes him a seasoned member of the Michigan House of Representatives.
Representing the 63rd District since 2015, Maturen currently serves as the Vice Chair of the House Tax Policy Committee and is a member of the Financial Liability Reform, Natural Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.
“I’m in my second term now,” Maturen said. “I’m hoping to come back for another term after 2018.”
With a background in real estate appraisals, Maturen understands property value and how classifications and zoning can affect the tax base, but ensuring Michigan taxes go where they are needed most or successfully passing a bill into law can be a challenge.
Getting a bill through the House is an ever-changing process Maturen said.
“All you need is 56 votes and you’re on a roll, but sometimes that’s hard to get,” he said. “It depends on the bill, the timing, and whether the governor, the Senate, and the House like it.”
As a result, Maturen carefully plans his efforts.
“I like to think of my bills as quality, not quantity,” he said.
“We are trying to see what we can get done this year,” Maturen said. “Next year is an election year so things are going to be different and focused on campaigns.”
With a bit of election-free time to get things done in the House remaining, Maturen highlighted what he sees as the three biggest issues facing the House.
No-fault Insurance Reform
“No-fault reform is a big issue,” Maturen said. “Why do we have the highest insurance rates in the nation? Why do some residents have no insurance at all? There are lots of different ways of looking at it.”
Maturen cited the practice of buying short-term, sometimes seven-day policies, just to get a license plate and then dropping the coverage as a contributing factor.
“I’ll see what comes out of the insurance committee,” he said. “Only 600 out of 4,000 bills make it to law. There is no sense in getting too worked up about what is in committee with those odds.”
Real Estate Appraisals
“I’m the only real estate appraiser in the House,” Maturen said. “The way I see it, there are three ways to estimate value. Cost approach, income approach, and comparable approach are the legitimate approaches to value estimation.”
He expressed concern over appraisal practices when big box stores build on high-value lots, invest upwards of $18 million in their structures, and then get appraisals for $3-4 million on the day they open.
Maturen’s previous attempt to legislate such issues last term passed the House 97 to 11, but did not even get a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.
“I am serving as Vice Chair of tax policy again,” Maturen said. “I will talk to the House Tax Policy chairman again to see if we can get it to a hearing again. I can’t not try.”
State Budget and Debt
“I used to chair the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners,” Maturen said. “That board looked five years ahead budget wise.
“My concern over future budgets showed in my vote – along with 11 other Republicans – against the income tax rate rollback this year. When I asked about what is going to happen with the $2 Billion hole in the state’s $10 Billion General Fund budget, I was told ‘don’t worry about it, that’s an appropriations issue.'” Maturen said.
“We chickened out on the road tax in my opinion. One half of the $1.2 Billion additional money for road funds will now come from the General Fund – not user fee road taxes – which is something that we have not done in the past.
“There’s a big fiscal storm coming and that’s assuming we don’t have a recession,” Maturen said. “That is why we need to keep a tight rein on spending and also tax credits.”
When asked how he thought Michigan ranked against other states, Maturen said, “I think we are doing the right things. We do realize that we have a massive teacher pension issue. That’s our biggest albatross, but we are chipping away at it the best we can. Theoretically, the state teacher’s pension debt will be paid off in the 2030’s if future legislators stay on track.”
“We need to pay off the debt that we have incurred,” he said.
Maturen also noted that while skipping annual required debt payments is not an option, the legislature must also be careful not to tie the hands of its predecessors.
Looking ahead to next year, Maturen sees a few things to keep an eye on.
“It is important to elect legislators who believe in economic development,” Maturen said.
He urged the event’s attendees and voters in general to look at the recent voting records on the “MI-thrive” and “Good Jobs” bills – which he voted for – in making decisions to support candidates in the House and Senate races.
The petition drive to put a part-time legislature on the ballot has him concerned.
“The combination of a part-time legislature and term limits will give a lot more power to the Administration,” he said. “With term limits alone there is not enough time in Lansing to dig in and understand everything. Most folks just are not there long enough.”