MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Philosophy, career changes and granola bars: How kids can inspire our choices

Added June 23rd, 2017 by Laura Millard Ross | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Laura Millard Ross

It’s hard for high school teachers like me to motivate teenagers, but I’ve found that—surprisingly—good old philosophy always gets them talking and thinking.

I start with Plato’s cave, delve into some Nietzsche, and touch on Camus. During one unit, I explain to my students Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The lesson starts simply enough: I draw a triangle on the board and explain the concept. I show them that if we don’t have shelter, if we’re hungry, if we’re cold, we can’t move up the hierarchy.

As the lesson continues, I watch. The students begin to look around the room. I can see, suddenly, a bit of empathy. A bit of compassion. They realize that kids who may struggle academically or socially are likely facing much deeper problems outside the classroom. Maybe the girl who doesn’t say much in class is financially supporting her siblings. Maybe the boy who doesn’t hand in homework is hungry. Maybe the student who has trouble keeping friends has been moving from couch to couch, without a permanent home.

I know the power of understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy because it is one of the most impactful lessons I have learned. It gives me a helpful lens to use when I deal with frustration in the classroom. It allows me to feel compassion and to understand when kids fall asleep in class, or when they don’t finish homework. It’s the reason I keep a box of granola bars in my desk. The reason I’m willing to extend a deadline or stay after school to work with students. And this year, it’s the reason I feel called to leave my classroom.

Maslows Hierarchy 525x326This choice may seem counterintuitive, but I promise there’s a purpose. When I saw that the Michigan League for Public Policy was hiring a communications associate this spring, I realized it was a chance for me to make a difference in kids’ lives outside my classroom walls. While teaching provides incredible opportunities to impact children, we are not often able to help them meet their most basic needs. I’ve struggled with this for years, and I realized that leaving the classroom might be the best way for me to make a difference to the children in my classroom.

This new role with the League will be the best of both worlds. I can still be with my students each day as I teach part time, but I will also be able to help the League fulfill its mission of addressing poverty and creating economic opportunity for all Michigan residents—especially our kids. I will still be ready with granola bars and hugs at school, but I’m eager to help our state’s kids meet their needs beyond that realm. I am so grateful to be part of the work being done here.

— Laura Millard Ross

Michigan continues to lag behind nationally in outcomes for kids

Added June 21st, 2017 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

Data point after data point seems to demonstrate clearly that we are failing to educate our children in Michigan. We know the importance that education has to achieving long-term economic security. Education levels also impact health and other outcomes over time. And poverty, health and communities have an effect on how well kids are able to learn. This means that our policies should recognize that our educators alone cannot improve the system or outcomes, and that policies need to support our teachers and schools along with their partners in helping kids to reach their potential.

infographic 2.pub - PublisherKids living in poverty or with low incomes also face a number of challenges. Of fourth-grade students whose families have low incomes, 84% were not proficient in reading compared to around 60% of students whose families were not low income. Where children live and attend school can also impact their outcomes. Albeit reading proficiency is not much better, but fourth-graders attending schools in suburban areas tend to have better rates of proficiency compared to students in city, town and rural communities.

Also impacting child development and outcomes, like education, are the notably high rates of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Michigan ranked 41st in the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book with 17% of kids living in areas with concentrated povertya worsening trend from 2008-2012. Even more disturbing are the racial disparities in the data: Michigan has the highest rate of concentrated poverty in the country for African-American children and top five highest for Latino kids. Children living in high-poverty communities and attend schools located in these areas are likely to have limited access to resources or parks and recreation and be exposed to more crime and violence. These adverse childhood experiences are not only traumatic to child well-being, but carry into adulthood. Michigan must invest in communities.

What does this mean for our kids who are growing up in an evolving and competitive global economy?

Schools with larger numbers of students with low incomes struggle to help their students overcome many of the barriers their students face and experience every day—and they cannot be expected to improve educational outcomes alone. Recent investments in the At-Risk program—an equitable approach to target resources in high-poverty schools—and in child care are moves in the right direction. Programs like Communities in Schools, Pathways to Potential and before- and after-school programs are great examples of addressing the whole child and family to help kids thrive and need to be expanded. And, using a cradle to career strategy through the use of programs like home visitation and adult education are critical.

Our educators, however, are the foundation for our kids’ learning and they must be supported. Recent moves by the Legislature to “reform” the teacher retirement system will do nothing to retain and attract some of our most important figures for our kids. This is a move backwards and will do nothing to improve the quality of education. The League will continue to support students, families, schools and communities as we work to get Michigan heading in the right direction on education.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

The Trump budget: A triple threat to household energy security and health

Added June 16th, 2017 by Julie Cassidy | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Julie Cassidy

In March, President Donald Trump released his first “skinny budget”—a preview of his priorities and desires for federal spending in the upcoming fiscal year. He recently released a more detailed budget proposal that reaffirms his intention to fulfill his sweeping promises of national prosperity at the expense of millions of Americans who already are just getting by on the skinniest of budgets.

Although Trump proposes alarming cuts to many services that provide a basic living standard for people with the fewest financial resources, for now I’d like to focus on just one aspect: home energy needs. The president has targeted for elimination the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which struggling families rely on for survival in the short term and to transition to economic self-sufficiency in the long term.

LIHEAP graphicPeople who can’t afford to spend much on housing often end up in old, poorly insulated homes where the rent or mortgage is low but the energy costs are exorbitant; thus, despite their efforts to budget responsibly, the poor condition of their living space limits their ability to get ahead. Federal funds make quality housing more affordable through help with utility bill payment, energy-related crisis assistance, permanent reduction in energy use through weatherization, and repairs necessary to make homes safe and energy efficient. As a result, there’s more money in household budgets for other basics such as food, transportation and healthcare. Furthermore, we all benefit from weatherization and energy efficiency measures through increased electric grid reliability and reduced pollution.

The elimination of these services would certainly have an impact in Michigan, where LIHEAP served nearly 455,000 households in budget year 2016. Approximately half of these households were below 75 percent of the federal poverty line and about 40 percent included an elderly person, a child age 5 or younger, or a person with a disability. Even with these resources, applicant households generally outnumber those actually funded by tens of thousands in a given year. Moreover, Michigan is a “heat and eat” state, meaning that households receiving at least $20 in heating assistance qualify for an increase in their monthly food assistance benefits. Thus, axing LIHEAP would directly increase hunger among some of the state’s most vulnerable people and further jeopardize their health.

The loss of all of these services would hinder working recipients’ ability to achieve economic security and punish those who can’t work—mainly children, seniors and people with disabilities—with potentially life-threatening consequences. Even more people would have to choose between freezing to death in the winter and resorting to unsafe measures in an attempt to keep warm. More people would have to try to survive on an unhealthy diet because they can’t afford the energy to power a refrigerator or stove. More people who rely on home medical equipment would have to forego treatment or get it in a healthcare facility, which may be associated with higher system-wide costs, worse health outcomes and a lower quality of life.

This is hardly a successful blueprint for American greatness. It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to cut people off from utility bill assistance while eliminating funding for home improvements and weatherization measures that can reduce their need for such assistance in the first place. It’s downright cruel to do so while pushing legislation that will raise out-of-pocket insurance costs and rescind coverage that millions of people need in order to combat the negative health effects of household energy insecurity.

It’s often said that the cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use. The same can be said for healthcare. If we want Americans to enjoy better health at a lower cost, investing in quality housing and home energy security is common sense. Tell your congressional representatives to protect these vital services that reduce pollution, lower healthcare costs and empower people with low incomes to achieve economic independence.

— Julie Cassidy

President Trump’s attack on food assistance is expensive for Michigan, devastating for families

Added June 15th, 2017 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) helps more than 726,000 Michigan households put food on their tables. President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would shift a significant share of the cost of SNAP and other vital programs to states, however, and would for the first time allow states to cut SNAP benefits. This would seriously threaten SNAP’s long-term success in reducing hunger and malnutrition, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Although states are responsible for some of the administrative costs, SNAP benefits have always been fully funded by the federal government and passed through by the states directly to households. This is to ensure that regional disparities in hunger, poverty and resources are properly addressed, which in turn helps ensure that low-income households have access to adequate food regardless of the state in which they live.

Microsoft PowerPoint - SNAP graphicThe president’s budget would end this longstanding and successful approach by forcing states to cover 10% of SNAP benefit costs beginning in 2020 and increasing that share to 25% in 2023 and later years. The proposal would cut federal SNAP funding by $116 billion over a decade and shift the costs to states, costing Michigan $542 million in additional annual costs and nearly $3.8 billion over the full 10 years of the Trump budget. This is all in addition to the potential block granting of SNAP that would also cause major problems for Michigan.

Lest any readers doubt the integrity and effectiveness of SNAP as a federal assistance program, here are a few facts:

The Trump budget proposal jeopardizes the ability of struggling families to put food on their tables. Given the size of the cost shift to states, Michigan would have to either drastically cut monthly food assistance benefits for SNAP participants (which states are allowed to do under the proposal), cut state funding for other critical programs or raise taxes. Do we really want to put our state in such a position rather than support a federal assistance program that has been working very well?

What is more, this cost shift would come on top of hundreds of billions of dollars in other cost shifts to states in the Trump budget. In total, the president’s budget would shift about $453 billion annually to states and localities once cuts are fully implemented in 2027—while at the same time including massive tax cuts largely for the wealthy and corporations that would likely cost several trillion dollars over the coming decade.

This is the biggest attack that we’ve seen in decades on the programs that Michigan and American families are depending on to survive. We urge readers to contact your members of Congress and urge them to reject the president’s SNAP cuts and other devastating budget cuts.

— Peter Ruark

Kansas’ experiment yields valuable lessons

Added June 9th, 2017 by Heidi Holliday | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Heidi Holliday

At the same time as Michigan has started talking about tax cuts that would significantly impact our budget for years—even decades—to come, Kansas successfully reversed a number of deep tax cuts that had reduced revenues and caused budget deficits over the past five years. What happened in Kansas has taught us that tax cuts do not mean economic growth and that with less comes less. We at the League have regularly pointed to Kansas as an example of what not to do but that what we really need are investments in the things that Michigan businesses, residents and communities really rely on—good schools, drivable roads, safe communities and clean water and air. The following guest blog from Heidi Holliday, Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, talks about the hard lessons that Kansas had to learn, but we are grateful to Kansas for learning those lessons so that we do not have to. Congratulations Kansans, you are now on the path to prosperity!

By Heidi Holliday, Executive Director, Kansas Center for Economic Growth

With the state facing yet another budget shortfall of $900 million, government leaders decided that enough was enough. Governor Sam Brownback, who heralded the 2012 experiment, was proposing yet more temporary band-aid approaches and more cuts to deal with the shortfalls. The Legislature chose a different path and instead sent the governor a bill that would raise more than $1.2 billion in new revenue over two years by, among other things, repealing a costly tax break for pass-through income, rebalancing individual income tax rates by reinstating a third tax bracket, and reversing course on the governor’s plan to eliminate our state income tax. Brownback vetoed the legislation but, with bipartisan support, the House and Senate quickly overrode the veto.

Kansas Statement T

Put simply, revenue matters. You can’t get something for nothing. We all want and deserve thriving communities with great schools, parks, and modern roads and bridges; and we chip in to pay for that. That’s what taxes are for.

Because of the scope of the 2012 changes, it didn’t take long before Kansans in every corner of the state began connecting the dots between the actions of state lawmakers and the quickly eroding quality of the things that make for a good economic foundation in every community. With every subsequent shortfall, the picture became more clear. Meanwhile, the promised economic boom—and the revenue rebound that would supposedly follow—never happened (as economists predicted). In the last few election cycles, voters have viewed candidates and their promises through a different lens, and the 2017 Legislature had the experience and public backing to chart a new course.

Most state tax codes, including ours, need further reform, but it’s high time that state tax policy adhere to one basic, proven (and now proven once again) principle—states need revenue to invest in the things that create thriving communities and a prosperous economy. Kansas just learned this lesson again, the hard way, so that your state doesn’t have to. You’re welcome.

— Heidi Holliday

Trump budget is anti-poor people, not anti-poverty

Added June 7th, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

From the First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for the newsletter and e-news

This past month saw two disastrous pieces of public policy come out of Washington: the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal.

three fifths cuts in trumps budgetWe provide a more substantive update on the AHCA below, but here’s what you really need to know: It raises costs, reduces coverage and slashes funding for states. In short, it’s bad, and we’re hopeful that leveler heads in the U.S. Senate will agree.

But that was just the appetizer. On May 23rd, President Trump released his budget proposal, and it is an all-out assault on people who are struggling in our state and our nation. We were expecting significant cuts to vital programs based on the president’s “skinny budget,” but it is far worse than anyone could imagine.

If the president is looking to make history and leave his mark, this awful budget will certainly do that. Our colleagues at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities say that his budget “contains the largest dollar cuts to programs for low- and moderate-income people proposed by any president’s budget in the modern era,” cutting these programs by an estimated $2.5 trillion over the next decade. About 59% of the president’s budget cuts would come from programs and services that help struggling families build a better life and keep food on their tables, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads.

SNAP cutsFood assistance through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be slashed by $193 billion over 10 years, targeting the elderly, working families and workers struggling to find a job. On top of the massive cuts to Medicaid in the House-passed AHCA, Medicaid would be cut by an additional $600 billion over 10 years. Possible per capita caps on Medicaid would make it even worse.

People who are struggling economically are not the only vulnerable residents who are being exploited by this budget. Disability programs would be cut by $72 billion, including Social Security Disability Insurance for workers with disabilities and their families and Supplemental Security Income, which provides income assistance to individuals with low incomes, including children, with disabilities.

There are also significant cuts to Great Lakes funding, other protections for our air, land and water, and other programs that are essential to our quality of life and our way of life in Michigan.

As our recent 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book and Making Ends Meet report show, millions of people and kids in Michigan are either living in poverty or barely getting by. Many families have yet to feel any economic recovery and are one emergency or unexpected expense away from financial disaster. More people are working, but in lower-paying jobs, and they depend on food assistance, Medicaid and other programs to survive—programs that would be decimated under President Trump’s budget. Michigan is particularly vulnerable to President Trump’s budget cuts, as we’re the second most reliant on federal funds of any state in the nation.

Our congressional delegation must oppose this budget and any others that follow in this same direction of harming our state’s most vulnerable residents, especially our children. They need to hear from the people that these appalling cuts will hurt and put names and faces to the lives that hang in the balance. If you or someone you know depends on food assistance, Medicaid, disability services or other federal programs, I urge everyone to share their story at Handsoff.org. And whether you use these programs yourself or just know that they are vital to a better Michigan for all, I encourage you to contact your congressperson directly and tell them to oppose the Trump budget or any other proposal that includes massive cuts to these programs.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

Who counts?

Added June 1st, 2017 by Jenny Kinne | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jenny Kinne

My favorite moment of last week happened in a crowded theater in Muskegon. Hundreds of people from across the state gathered to talk equity at the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance’s 2017 Summit on Race & Inclusion, “Moving Toward Justice.” The day began with Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, a self-described nerd and data enthusiast, speaking about how he uses statistics, education and a bit of dorky charm to work with public safety departments across the country to cut down on racial profiling and police violence.

In setting the stage for our day, he asked an important question—“Who counts?” As a country, we have very little data on our police departments, so when issues of police brutality come to the forefront, it is difficult to understand the frequency and cause of such problems. This is far from the only data that is missing when it comes to how public policy and community service programs affect people. Many people’s experiences are not being counted. When we do not count people, Dr. Goff asks, “How many stories are we missing?”

This question echoed in my brain later that day as I listened to Heather McGhee, president of Demos, give her take on today’s U.S. economy. Like myself, Heather is a millennial, so she opened her conversation with: “Millennials are this country’s largest and most diverse generation in American history, and they are the first generation of Americans who will not be better off financially than their parents.”

Sadly, this fact has transformed into a sentiment I hear too often—young people are not as hard-working, motivated, selfless, etc., as the workers of previous generations. I will remember Heather’s response for a long time:

  1. From the 1930s forward, we have steadily decreased taxes for the wealthy and made it harder for workers to collectively bargain. This was happening alongside immigration reform that transformed the demographics of our country.
  2. Diverse Hands Raised 533 x289We no longer live in a world where a person can have a union-wage job and support an entire family while saving for the future. Most two-parent homes in this country have both parents working, and there are no contemporary positions equivalent to post-war, unionized and entry-level manufacturing jobs. The fastest growing industry in the country is the service industry, and most service jobs offer low wages and no benefits packages.
  3. The Montgomery Effect—Before the Civil Rights Act, Montgomery, AL, had a state-of-the-art parks system. Their beautiful zoo, pool and downtown parks were the pride of the town. When the Civil Rights Act passed, the city of Montgomery drained their pool and sold their zoo animals rather than integrate. Similarly, prior to the entrée of women and people of color into the workforce, key social contracts were developed between government, business and labor. As more people demanded a seat at the table, these social contracts dissolved. Economic decisions often reflect the prejudices of the decision-makers.

When you combine these three realities, it is no wonder we see a shrinking middle class and a growing gap between the classes. The price of entry into today’s middle class is simply too high for many working families and millennials.

Why don’t we hear this story? Instead, we hear that millennials, people of color, immigrants and poor people are causing the collapse of the middle class. The real experiences of these people are not being counted and given meaning in today’s political rhetoric.

Thank you to LEDA for this incredible experience! Please be sure to learn more about this organization, and I would recommend their annual race summit to anyone. I hope you will be as inspired as I am to create a better Michigan for all!

The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (LEDA) works in West Michigan to dismantle barriers to ensure people of all ethnic backgrounds have equal access to participate fully in the life of the community. Every year, LEDA holds a Summit where they bring together thought leaders from across the country and Michigan to discuss racial equity and inclusion.

— Jenny Kinne

130,000 Michigan workers have had wages stolen by employers

Added May 31st, 2017 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

People across the political spectrum may differ in their ideas about how high the minimum wage should be and how often it should be increased, but there is a general consensus that if a minimum wage is put into law, it should be honored. Many people may be surprised, however, at the frequency with which such laws are flouted and workers are paid less than minimum wage.

A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that in Michigan and other states, minimum wage theft often occurs. From 2013 to 2015, approximately 130,000 Michigan workers experienced a minimum wage violation, with an average underpayment of $2.05 per hour (or $3,300 if for a full year). According to the report, minimum wage theft can take one or more of the following forms:

  • Overt minimum wage violations: Paying workers less than the legal minimum wage;
  • Overtime violations: Failing to pay nonexempt employees time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week;
  • Off-the-clock violations: Asking employees to work off-the-clock before or after their shifts;
  • Meal break violations: Denying workers their legal meal breaks;
  • Pay stub and illegal deductions: Taking illegal deductions from workers’ wages or not distributing employee pay stubs;
  • Tipped minimum wage violations: Confiscating tips from workers or failing to pay tipped workers the difference between their tips and the legal minimum wage (the tipped wage is also too low in general); or
  • Employee misclassification violations: Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to pay a wage lower than the legal minimum.

workers wages stolen by employersMore than 61% of Michigan’s workers experiencing minimum wage theft are women. Black and Hispanic workers are more likely to be victims than White workers or workers of other races, and Hispanic workers experience the most severe wage theft ($2.47 average hourly underpayment, compared with $2.11 for White workers and $1.72 for Black workers). Workers in the “food or drink service” industry are the most likely to be exploited, with 21.3% of such workers having experienced at least one minimum wage violation and workers in that industry making up 38.2% of the total number of Michigan workers experiencing violations. Nine out of 10 workers experiencing minimum wage theft are U.S.-born citizens.

The report estimates that nationally, unscrupulous employers are stealing around $15 billion annually from employees in minimum wage violations—an amount that exceeds the value of property crimes (robberies, burglaries, larceny and motor vehicle theft) committed in the United States each year, which in 2015 was $12.7 billion. One can surmise that in Michigan most cases of wage theft are not reported; the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs says that each year it receives over 5,000 claims and collects more than $2.0 million in wages and fringe benefits owed to Michigan workers—clearly far below EPI’s estimate of the frequency and magnitude of wage theft occurrence.

Wage theft is costly to society. Federal and state income taxes, along with payroll taxes that support Social Security and Medicare, are not fully deducted at the levels they should be. Moreover, when lower-paid workers are not paid the entire earnings that they are due, they likely spend less at local businesses and pay less in state sales taxes than they otherwise would. The hardship caused to workers should itself be a reason for alarm and outrage at wage theft, but the costs that are passed on to businesses, entitlement programs and state budgets provide an additional reason to take this crime seriously.

The League’s Making Ends Meet report shows that it’s nearly impossible to get by on minimum wage in Michigan, and we support raising the minimum wage and instituting other policies to protect wages and support workers. If you believe that you have been the victim of a wage theft violation, you can file a complaint with the State of Michigan. More information on how to do that is available here.

— Peter Ruark

CB…oh no?!

Added May 26th, 2017 by Emily Schwarzkopf | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Emily Schwarzkopf

Earlier this month, the House Republicans in Congress passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) without an updated Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. The CBO is an independent, nonpartisan office that analyzes the cost and impact of proposed federal legislation. Wednesday, in full nerd behavior I anxiously awaited the release of the new report.

While earlier versions of the AHCA revealed that over 24 million people would lose their health coverage, the effect of amendments that allowed for waivers for essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions was not yet known … until now. (Yes, 20 days after the bill was voted on by the House). What we know from the newest CBO score is that not much has changed. According to the report released yesterday:

CBO Uninsured Rate F 448 x 457

  • 23 million more people would be uninsured by 2026;
  • $8 billion dollars allocated for high-risk pools would not be sufficient to cover the large increases in premiums for high-cost enrollees;
  • Medicaid enrollment (including children, people with disabilities and the elderly) would decrease by 14 million people;
  • People needing maternity, substance abuse & mental health care would incur thousands of dollars in extra out-of-pocket costs in states who apply for a waiver.
  • Premiums would go up 20 percent more than current law in 2018.
  • In states that pursue waivers, the report says that average premiums would fall but “less healthy people would face extremely high premiums.”

Last week, our national partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released two reports on the effects the AHCA has on rural America and home- and community-based services. Both of these reports once again put on display the great harm this legislation would bring.

One of the things that really stood out to me was the huge effect the AHCA would have on our rural Michiganians. In Michigan, 113,800 people in rural communities gained coverage through Michigan’s Healthy Michigan Plan. That’s nearly 20 percent of the total enrollment of the program. Those suffering from opioid addiction (of which rural Michigan has been greatly affected) have been particularly helped by the expansion of Medicaid. The coverage gained allowed these people to access the necessary treatment and education they need to fight this growing epidemic.

Home- and community-based services are optional services that states are not required to provide but many individuals rely on as a way to receive care at home rather than in a nursing home. In 2013, 102,810 Michigan residents relied on these services. Restructuring Medicaid through per capita caps and the ultimate end of Medicaid expansion would result in a significant cost shift to states, so much that states could choose to no longer provide these important services to seniors and people and kids with disabilities.

There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved and as the U.S. Senate moves forward in its process, we can hope that they look at this data to develop legislation that rejects caps on the Medicaid program, continues successful Medicaid expansion programs—including Michigan’s Healthy Michigan program, and increases the number of insured individuals.

We know you are being pulled in a lot of directions right now, but we still have a lot of work to do on the healthcare front and we need you to keep fighting. We have a helpful website set up with our coalition partners so you can contact your member of Congress, and all these reports to help keep you informed on the devastating impact of the AHCA. And they come in handy when you battle your friends on the intricacies of Medicaid financing … oh wait, I’m the only one that does that?

— Emily Schwarzkopf

CREC yourself before you wreck yourself

Added May 19th, 2017 by Alex Rossman | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alex Rossman

“CREC yourself before you wreck yourself.” For the last 11 years, I have been trying to slip that joke into my work in the Legislature and now the League. And I had an epiphany yesterday that I might finally be able to do it…as long as I put my own name on it.

I also need to give it a proper explanation, as there’s probably a small sliver of people who know what CREC is AND get 90s Ice Cube lyrics. CREC stands for Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. Held in January and May of every year, CREC is comprised of the directors of the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies and the state treasurer or budget director.

These fiscal experts analyze and report on economic indicators and state revenue projections. The consensus that is reached during the January conference becomes the revenue basis for the governor’s budget proposal, and the consensus reached during the May conference become the revenue basis for the budget bills passed by the Legislature.

The May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference was earlier this week, and the news on state revenues is not great. But there is a silver lining, at least to me—it makes “wreck yourself” particularly relevant.

Since January, some Michigan legislators have been really hot on cutting the state income tax. This is a bad idea on its face, but especially in this current context. As League CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs said, “Given the fluctuations in state revenues, it was and continues to be foolhardy to consider tax cuts that would further jeopardize state services.”

if-only-i-had-checked-myselfSee! “CREC yourself before you wreck yourself” is not just a (bad) pun—it’s a valid point. The very intent of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference is for lawmakers to check themselves and incorporate these estimates into their state spending and budgets. And if they don’t take these forecasts seriously and make poor fiscal decisions, they stand to wreck our state budget, our state services and ultimately our state.

The Legislature needs to let talk of an income tax cut die. And when the House and Senate budget committees begin meeting soon, lawmakers should be sensible and strategic with our state dollars, investing in the programs and services that support our workers and families and get the most bang for our state bucks. For example, increasing state funding for child care and heating assistance can leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

The next few weeks are critical to the state budget and the priorities you and I value. To help you get involved, the League has put together a timeline and advocacy tips on the state budget. We also continue to produce budget briefs on some of the issues that are most important to us and to you: supporting education, including child care, K-12 schools and colleges and universities, protecting healthcare and the Healthy Michigan Plan, and reducing incarceration and providing adequate support for prisoners.

Whether you can work a rap reference in or not, I hope you will join the League in standing up for these budget priorities and urging lawmakers to make smart investments in our state’s future.

Alex Rossman

Next Page »