Voting yes on Proposal 1 is voting to improve our communities

We all agree that we need better roads in Michigan, but we don’t agree on how we pay for them. With the various strains on the state budget, including a shortfall due to outstanding business tax credits and an increasingly overreliance on federal funds, it’s hard to imagine a proposal that fixes our roads, invests in our schools and local communities, and protects Michigan’s lowest earners.

Vote yes on Proposal 1 to once and for all guarantee funding for safer roads

Proposal 1 meets these objectives while any “Plan B” likely would increase road funding at the detriment of our schools, communities and vulnerable families.

Next Tuesday, voters will decide whether to back Proposal 1, a comprehensive, bipartisan plan or to take a chance with the new Legislature. There is a lot of frustration surrounding Proposal 1 for several reasons. Some people say “it’s too complicated” or “the Legislature punted the issue.” Yes, it is complicated and for good reason: A long-term, structural fix to fund our roads into the future has a lot of moving pieces that must be addressed. It can’t be simple.

But no, legislators did not punt the issue. They devised this plan that must be approved by voters. Raising Michigan’s sales tax requires a ballot proposal.

While Proposal 1 may not be perfect—no policy is—this is pretty good, and quite possibly, the best solution to all of our problems. Proposal 1 contains many benefits:

    • It removes the sales tax from gas purchases while increasing the gas tax to ensure that all of our taxes paid on gas go to support the roads.
    • It changes our flat tax rate to one based on the wholesale cost of gas helping it keep up with inflation so that the tax doesn’t lose its purchasing power and making funds more stable in the long-run.
    • Eliminating the sales tax on gas, which primarily supports schools and communities, means the sales tax must be increased to prevent cuts to schools and local governments.
    • Increasing the sales tax has the potential to hit the lowest earners the most; therefore, with the passage of Proposal 1, the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit would significantly increase from 6% to 20% to help offset the sales tax increase.

The Legislature has given the public a voice in deciding how to fund improvements to our quickly deteriorating and unsafe roads. We cannot sacrifice the possible for the perfect. Every day we wait to find a road funding solution, the costs go up for taxpayers.

Support for Proposal 1 is support for better roads, better schools, and better local communities to create a state where people will want to live, work, and play.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

 

 

Funding for Third Grade Reading and Adult Education Threatened in House Budget

 

The House has approved its version of the 2016 budget for the Department of Education and K-12 education this week, leaving out much of the governor’s forward-thinking third grade reading initiative, and completely eliminating funding for adult education. The House also ended many “categorical” programs that are targeted to high poverty districts that are struggling academically and financially, redirecting those funds to the per-pupil school payment.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee adopted most of the governor’s proposed third grade reading investments, and increased funding for adult education—after years of deep cuts. The next step is Senate passage, ultimately the resolution of differences between the bills in a joint House/Senate conference committee.

Reading by Third Grade

The governor proposed to spend nearly $50 million to help turn around Michigan’s disappointing fourth grade reading scores. A recent League report shows that the ability to ready by the end of third grade is central to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and ability to contribute to the state’s economy. But roughly 40% or 40,000 of the state’s third-graders read below proficiency as defined in the 2013 MEAP test.

To improve literacy, the governor proposed a range of changes, including:

Child care enhancements ($24 million in federal funds): In addition to being a critical support for working parents, child care is a potential learning environment for thousands of Michigan children. The governor proposed to increase the quality and stability of child care by: (1) allowing very low-income families to retain their child care subsidies for up to twelve months even if they receive modest raises or promotions; (2) increasing payments to high quality providers, reflecting the reality that Michigan payments have been some of the lowest in the country for many years; and (3) hiring more child care inspectors to counter damaging federal audits showing Michigan didn’t have enough inspectors to ensure children were safe.

    • House: The House approved the extended eligibility for child care services and provider payment increases, but rejected the additional child care inspectors, despite the fact that all funds for the expansion are federal, and will need to be returned to the federal government for redistribution to other states if not spent.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate Committee adopted the governor’s child care enhancements.

Other early interventions ($25 million): The governor’s proposal for improving third grade reading included: (1) home visiting programs for at-risk families; (2) parent education pilot programs; (3) testing and professional development, along with literacy coaches for K-3 teachers; and (4) $10 million for additional instruction time for children needing the assistance.

    • House: The House committee rejected the governor’s third grade reading initiative, although the Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid noted that a work group is meeting to create a plan to improve third grade reading, with recommendations expected in the next several weeks. Because the House and Senate differ on their support for the governor’s plan, early interventions will be part of the discussions in the joint House/Senate conference committee, although it is unclear at this time if the recommendations will encompass services for families with young children (ages 0 to 5) as well as interventions in the early grades (K-3rd grade).
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee agreed with most of the components of the governor’s initiative, and added another $10 million for extra instructional time for students, bringing total instructional funding to $20 million.

Additional funding to districts with high numbers of children at risk of educational failure ($100 million): If adopted, the governor’s recommendation to increase At Risk funding for schools would be the first significant increase since 2001. Districts are given funding based on the number of low-income students eligible for free meals, so it is a valuable source of support for districts struggling with high numbers of low-income children.

    • House: The House committee rejected the governor’s recommendation to increase At Risk funding by $100 million, and deleted language defining which children would be eligible. Instead, districts could only receive their current level of funding next year if they implement a specific instructional model—the Multi-tiered System of Supports.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee included the additional $100 million for At Risk, and specified that 50% of that increase must be spent on third grade reading initiatives.

Adult Education

The governor did not propose to increase funding for adult education, which has fallen from a high of $185 million in 1996 to only $22 million today. An important component of workforce development in Michigan is an expansion in the number of people receiving GEDs and/or acquiring the basic skills needed to prepare for occupational skills training leading to employment.

With current funding, Michigan cannot reach many working-age adults who need services. Nearly 222,000 Michigan adults ages 25-44 lack a high school diploma or GED, but fewer than 7% are enrolled in adult education. In addition, more than 225,000 adults in this state are not proficient in English, but fewer than 5% enroll in English as a Second language adult education programs.

    • House: The House committee eliminated all funding ($22 million) for adult education, as well as all funding ($1.2 million) for K-12 bilingual education.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee increased funding for adult education by $7 million, to a total of $29 million, and agreed with the governor to continue funding for K-12 bilingual education at current levels.

 

Lawmakers: Plant a pinwheel then fund programs protecting kids from abuse and neglect

Today’s Michigan Prevention Awareness Day rally at the Capitol holds special meaning for me this year. After years of writing about children who had been abused or neglected, and then about needed policy reforms, my husband and I last year decided to dive into the trenches. We wanted to make a difference in another way, even if in the life of only one child. So we became foster parents.

After taking all the classes, converting my home office into a nursery, passing background checks and physicals, and completing a million forms, we were licensed in April 2014. Our first call came in June to take in not one, but two babies who had been severely neglected. The twin girls were 3 months old but weighed only four pounds each – the same they weighed when their parents took them home from the hospital at three weeks old. But then, they didn’t feed them enough. (more…)

Detroit Free Press: Michigan Senate panel OKs bills on adoption and religion

LANSING – On 4-1 party-line votes, the Senate Families Seniors and Human Services passed three bills that will allow Faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve prospective parents based on their religious beliefs. April 22, 2015 — Detroit Free Press

 

MLIVE: Carbon costs Michigan citizens who can least afford it, report says

LANSING, MI — Clean energy may be a buzzword among the white collar set, but a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy finds that low income people would benefit more from its adoption. April 18, 2015 — MLIVE

Midwest Energy News: Report: Cutting carbon can benefit low-income ratepayers

Low-income residents’ health and pocketbooks are disproportionately affected by burning fossil fuels, and they stand to benefit the most as states comply with federal carbon regulations, according to two new reports released last week. April 20, 2015 — Midwest Energy News

MLIVE: Sluggish incomes and government mistrust may torpedo Proposal 1

If the polls are to be believed, Michigan voters are likely to defeat the May 5 ballot question that would boost the sales tax to fix the state’s decrepit roads. April 19, 2015 — MLIVE

Undocumented immigrants: Reform increases their tax contributions

Editor’s note: The original blog post and ITEP report incorrectly stated the effective tax rate for the top 1% of earners in Michigan. We apologize for this error, which has been corrected.

Undocumented immigrants already contribute a significant amount to our state’s tax system. Under President Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions, the amount will increase and could be even more with comprehensive reform.

According to a new 50-state study, “Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions” by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the 100,000 undocumented immigrants living in Michigan contribute $86 million in state and local taxes. With the president’s executive actions, ITEP estimates that this will increase by $10.86 million when it is fully implemented to allow temporary reprieve to youth who have resided in the country for at least five years and parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents. If comprehensive reform were undertaken granting lawful permanent residence to all undocumented immigrants in Michigan, the gain would be about $26.4 million. (more…)

MLIVE: More action needed to improve early literacy

There’s a new spotlight on the long-standing problem of third-grade reading proficiency among Michigan schoolchildren. April 16, 2015 — MLIVE

 

Lansing State Journal: Lansing’s iconic Eckert Plant faces complex fate

LANSING – The Board of Water & Light’s Eckert Power Plant — known for its iconic triple smokestack — is on life support and creating a challenge bigger than Interim General Manager Dick Peffley has seen in 39 years with the utility. April 16, 2015 — Lansing State Journal

 

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