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It’s a pivotal time for Michigan public policy. Decisions made in the next few months will determine the path Michigan takes into the future.
In three short months, voters on May 5 will decide Proposal 1, the road funding package. There’s no doubt that this is Michigan’s single best chance to raise sorely needed money to pay for road repairs and put new dollars into school classrooms all while protecting families earning the least.
A ‘yes’ vote on May 5 would end the era of delaying needed road repairs or paying for them with borrowed dollars. All with a penny sales tax increase. The sales tax increase to 7 cents will put Michigan in the middle of the pack of states — the same as Indiana’s.
For working families earning the least in Michigan, the penny tax will be offset by a full restoration of the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal credit.
The EITC is the best tool we have to reward work and lift families from poverty. More than 1 million Michigan children will benefit. What a win-win!
Also, this month, on Feb. 11, Gov. Snyder will unveil his executive budget, offering both challenges and opportunities.
The governor, in his State of the State address, announced the merger of the Department of Community Health and the Department of Human Services to a new Department of Health and Human Services under the leadership of Nick Lyon, the director of DCH and interim director of DHS.
At DCH, Lyon continued impressive strides in implementing the Healthy Michigan Plan so that a half-million previously uninsured or underinsured adults in Michigan get wellness care and care when they are sick.
Lyon has kept the League and other advocates informed about the merger and he seems sincere in efforts to help Michigan families and children. I pledge to work with him to find solutions that will make a positive difference in the lives of Michigan’s economically vulnerable kids and adults.
As the new department works to streamline programs with a “people first” rather than a “programs first” approach, we’ll monitor with this principle in mind: True efficiency must be found in making sure services match the needs of families rather than measuring success by the number of kids and adults dropped from programs.
In addition, there will be strong pressure to cut programs as the deep business tax cuts from 2011 resulted in revenue shortfalls that are now apparent.
Next year, business tax revenue is projected to contribute a small share (8.3%) of Michigan’s General Fund — the state’s main checking account that covers public safety, higher education, healthcare and other needed services.
That’s a far, far cry from two decades ago when business revenue contributed nearly a third (29%) of the General Fund. To succeed, businesses need those public services, and it’s a reminder, once again, that business tax cuts do not grow the economy.
So buckle your seat belts as we head into 2015 public policy debates! It’s going to be a bumpy ride. The League will keep you informed of developments, and we hope you will be engaged in these important decisions ahead.
– Gilda Z. Jacobs