Oh Michigan!

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

‘O’ stands for October — and it also stands for Opportunity.

With just a few short weeks before the Nov. 4 election, now is your best chance as a concerned Michigan citizen to make a difference.

You can do this by:

1. Informing candidates for public office about policies you support.
2. Asking candidates about those issues so you can vote for the person who best reflects your priorities.

There’s a lot at stake in this election. In state elections, all 110 members of the House of Representatives and 38 Senate members will be elected in addition to the governor.

To help sort through this monumental task, the League has identified 15 public policy areas.

One of the biggest is what to do about our crumbling roads. Solutions offered are increasing the sales tax, creating a wholesale tax on gas, raising vehicle registration fees or diverting sales tax revenue. Creating or increasing taxes, especially the sales tax, will disproportionately affect those earning low wages.

Here’s the question to ask your candidates:

“Do you support increased or new revenue to address Michigan’s crumbling roads and infrastructure? Would you support increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit or other tax credit to help offset the burden on people earning low wages?”

Beware of the candidate who has a simple solution. If the answer is to just make roads a priority for funding, what happens to the other services such as health and education that now must make do with a smaller funding pot? Those who would simply increase the sales tax risk ignoring the realities of our economy — that families with low incomes pay a much bigger share of their income in sales tax than wealthier families.

Another question for candidates focuses on child poverty, which has escalated by 40% over the last 25 years with nearly one in every four Michigan kids now living in poverty. That’s $19,000 a year or less for a family of three and $24,000 for a family of four. The question for candidates:

“Several policy initiatives to alleviate child poverty have been suggested, such as raising the minimum wage to $10.10 — closer to its value in the 1960s and indexing it to inflation, reinstating the state Earned income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal EITC, and raising the child care subsidy and easing eligibility requirements, parents earning low wages can access child care. Would you support any of these initiatives?”

A newer policy area of work for the League looks at clean energy and health-related costs of coal-fired electricity generating units that more deeply affect people of color and those who are economically vulnerable. To explore this, ask your candidate:

“Would you support transitioning from coal to clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power to reduce pollution and improve the health of Michiganians?”

For more help and background, see the League’s full set of questions, candidate fact sheets by district and advocacy basics.

When policies, debates and energy are focused on reducing child poverty, improving tax policy and making our air clean, we will be able to celebrate another ‘O.’

That would be for Outstanding!

– By Gilda Z. Jacobs

Minimum wage increase: A step in the right direction, but not enough

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

The governor hastily signed legislation last week increasing the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. Though this is certainly progress in the right direction, this will still keep a family of three under the federal poverty line, which is about $18,500 a year.

This was all done in an attempt to nullify the efforts of a proposed minimum wage ballot campaign to increase the wage to $10.10 an hour, which would lift a family of three above poverty by roughly $1,200.

Just think of what this could do for a family who could then better prepare for needs that arise, such as buying new school clothes for a child, being prepared for a medical emergency, or simply being able to pay their bills on time or in advance. (more…)

Today’s lesson: Poverty is not a learning disability

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

My Brother’s Keeper is a White House initiative aimed at addressing what is truly a crisis in Michigan and across the nation: The lack of opportunity for young males of color.

Attendees at the Opportunity and Equity Convening Monday in Novi, an event sponsored by the Prosperity Coalition and the League, heard directly from Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, who attended the gathering to preview the initiative – with a report due to President Obama May 28. (more…)

Not a pie-in-the-sky idea

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for e-news and newsletters
 
  • Life is a bowl of cherries.
  • It’s the pits.
  • That’s a pie-in-the sky idea.

My staff and I have been making a lot of cherry puns over the last week. But it’s all for a serious reason.

We used a cherry pie to show what 20% of Michigan families earning the least would get if we roll back the Michigan personal income tax from 4.25% to 3.9%. Yep, that’s just $12 – enough to buy a cherry pie from the bakery. (more…)

EITC is perfect vehicle for the governor

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for League mailing list

Gov. Rick Snyder unveils his fourth executive budget Wednesday and worthy of applause is the fact that he has rejected the across-the-board rollback of Michigan’s personal income tax.

The governor indicated in his State of the State address last month that he wants a tax cut but one that is targeted to working families — those “hardworking Michiganders who get up every day and pack their lunch and go to work.” (more…)

Hunger grows at time of thanks

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for newsletter and email alerts 

It’s November and time to look forward to Thanksgiving — a treasured American holiday, symbolized by the bounty of the pilgrim harvest. For my family, that means turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings.

For too many in Michigan, however, Thanksgiving will be a reminder of the ongoing struggle to put enough food on the table.

Nearly one in every seven Michigan households reported difficulty affording food at some point last year. And a plan before Congress, if adopted, will worsen hunger and jeopardize Michigan’s fragile economic recovery as well. (more…)

Detroit’s woes, solutions don’t stop at city limits

From the First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for news and alerts

The July 18 bankruptcy filing for Detroit was shocking, though in many ways, it wasn’t a surprise at all. Detroit’s struggles have been evident for years. Still, as a native Detroiter, my heart broke a little that day.

One thing that is clear in this multilayered controversy: Detroit’s problems and solutions do not stop at the city limits. We all have a stake in this — not only in Michigan, but across the country as Detroit may be the canary in the coalmine for other regions.

What should be the response from policymakers? First and foremost, let’s remember that this is about people. Stronger state and federal strategies that invest in children and families, reduce poverty and grow jobs will be good for all. And we have lots of room for improvement. (more…)

Fast track but off course

From the First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up here 

Before leaving town for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference and fudge fest last week, state lawmakers finished their work on the FY 2014 state budget, making decisions on the allocation of approximately $48 billion in state and federal revenues at nearly breakneck speed.

So how did low- and moderate-income families and children, the unemployed, seniors and other vulnerable residents of Michigan fare in this fast-track budget? On the positive side, the Michigan Legislature adopted several of the governor’s initiatives that serve to improve children’s health and school readiness. (more…)

Rising to the challenge

From the First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up here

After a long cold winter, it’s good to feel optimistic again. Spring is here in Michigan, and there are signs that our economy is back on track and chugging along, even if very slowly.

As I work on meeting a critical fundraising challenge issued by the Nokomis Foundation, however, I find myself reminding those I meet with that the economy still does not work for all. (more…)

Let’s resolve to make Michigan healthier

From the January newsletter
Sign up for League newsletters and emails

Happy New Year!

As you make your New Year’s resolutions – healthy eating and exercising are my all-time favorites – let’s resolve to make Michigan a healthier place too.

The start of the New Year means that budget setting is right around the corner. First with the governor’s executive budget, then with the Legislature’s public hearings and votes, the budget process is our chance to set our priorities as a state. (more…)

Next Page »