‘Yes’ on road funding is right direction

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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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

Nokomis Legacy goal exceeded

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

League exceeds fundraising goal to grow Nokomis gift

LANSING, Mich. — A challenge to raise $250,000 for the Nokomis Foundation Legacy Endowment has been met and exceeded, Robert Swanson, the chair of the board of the Michigan League for Public Policy, announced today.

In all, a $2.4 million endowment has been created, as the result of a gift from the Grand Rapids-based Nokomis Foundation. Nokomis donated $1 million in 2012 to the League with a pledge of another $1 million if the League raised $250,000 in donations and pledges from supporters and new donors.

“I’m thrilled to report that longtime supporters as well as new donors stepped up to help us meet that challenge, and even go beyond,” Swanson said. “It’s great to know that so many care about sustaining the work of the League to improve the lives of Michigan’s economically vulnerable citizens.” (more…)

Not a pie-in-the-sky idea

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  • 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…)

Hunger grows at time of thanks

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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…)

Fast track but off course

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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

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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
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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…)

Ending the year on a sweet note or two

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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At our policy forum and annual meeting Monday, we had much to celebrate.

Proposal 5, which would have required all tax increases and loophole closings be approved by a two-thirds marjority, was soundly defeated in Michigan by a supermajority of voters. Forum attendees gave a hearty round of applause for that victory.

And the keynote speaker, noted economist Jared Bernstein, told the 140 attendees that an important shift happened with the Nov. 6 election. At the national level, Republican leaders have signaled they realize that revenues have to be part of the solution — not just spending cuts that hurt families and children and our economy. Bernstein, a senior policy fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, noted that the housing market is finally on the rebound after many sluggish years and state budgets are improving, though not out of the woods. (more…)

After a century, it’s time for a celebration

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On Wednesday, we will celebrate 100 years of research and advocacy at the Michigan League for Human Services, soon to be the Michigan League for Public Policy.

How time flies!

The League traces its roots to 1912. It began, appropriately enough, during the Progressive Era as the Michigan Conference on Charities of Corrections. A group of concerned citizens (including social workers, judges and attorneys among them) planned an annual meeting about the major public welfare issues of the day. (more…)

Back-to-school success for kids — and adults

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Labor Day is over, and it’s back-to-school time in Michigan. But our kids are not the only ones in our state who need to hit the books.

It’s time for policymakers to study up and implement changes to help adults in families across Michigan.

The League mapped out strategies in a recent report to help adult learners attain the credentials they need to become successful  workers. It’s not pie-in-the-sky stuff. We need these adult learners to be part of the talent pool for a successful economy that works for all by offering opportunity and lessening the need for government assistance. (more…)

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