Michigan bill sent to Gov. Whitmer allows for deferral of summer property taxes

LANSING, Mich. – People and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic or dam flooding could wait to pay their summer property taxes until 2021 without being penalized under legislation sent to Michigan's governor.

A related bill would require the state to provide short-term financing to local governments facing revenue shortfalls due to the later tax payments.

The measures were among several approved in the Legislature Wednesday and Thursday, as lawmakers moved bills to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or took initial action on others before breaking until later in the summer.

It is not clear if Whitmer will sign the tax deferral bills. The state Department of Treasury opposes the “unworkable” bonding proposal and said conversations will continue.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. James Lower of Greenville, said the goal is to give people whose livelihoods have been upended a “little peace of mind.” Further work will be done over the summer to “refine” the proposed deferment program so it “can function as efficiently as possible," he said.

The deadline to pay summer property taxes — typically Sept. 14, though it can vary by municipality — would be deferred to March 1. Interest would not start accruing until June 1. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says people who defer their taxes would need to make a full year's worth of payments plus their 2020 summer payments over a seven-month period in 2021.

Other legislation headed to the Democratic governor would:

— require the state Department of Transportation to hire a consulting firm to study the feasibility of turning highways into toll roads. The report would be due in two years.

— set the stage for Michigan to have a permanent program for farmers to grow industrial hemp. They took part in an inaugural season last year as part of a pilot. The bill would align state law with federal requirements.

— require the regulation of firefighting foams that contain a group of chemicals known as PFAS. Potentially hazardous perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances have been found increasingly in ground and surface waters.