From My Desk in Lansing:
The Fiscal Year 2013 Executive Budget plan has been introduced and will receive much of my attention during the coming months. Last year's budget was very tough and tough decisions had to be made in order to protect our hard-earned tax dollars.
One year later I can tell you it was worth it.
During the past decade our legislatures spent down our rainy-day fund to the point that nothing was left. We were borrowing money just so we could balance the budget. We had to go out to the bond markets (which is very costly) just to make repairs on buildings.
Now, just one year later, this Legislature passed the first structurally balanced budget since the Milliken years. That means that we are no longer passing on more debt to our children and grandchildren. Recently, we have been recognized by national rating agencies with a positive outlook for the work that we have done on our budget. As Michigan has been in the spotlight during this presidential primary even MSNBC took notice at the turnaround Michigan has been able to accomplish in such a short time.
The simple truth is we focused on what our hard-working taxpayers need good-paying jobs!
We know that you deserve better. Just get a bloated government out of your way and let the private sector do what every American knows it can do - create jobs. In fact, the private sector in our state has currently created more than 75,000 high-paying jobs that cannot be filled because many of our citizens do not have the skill set to fill these positions.
Can you believe that here in Macomb County, the capitol of tool and die in the world, we have a surplus of jobs with very few workers to fill them? Not only do we need tool and die workers, but we also are in need of welders, accountants, nurses, engineers …
The time is now to also get able-bodied Americans in our state back to school so that we do not have to look outside of our state for workers to fill these positions. Macomb Community College is recognized as one of the best - if not the best - vocational school in the country. We need to focus on partnering the college with local businesses so that our citizens can get trained and back to work - NOW!
As many of you may know, I serve on the House Appropriations Committee and one of its main tasks is to pass a balanced state budget. Last year this task was completed in May, the earliest it has been done in 30 years. That meant that local communities and in particular our schools can enter their budget year knowing how to budget for themselves.
Our goal simply cannot be to hand out your hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Although many special interests may pander to our emotions, it is my responsibility to ensure that we are fiscally sound moving forward. I want to end for good the process of passing on our obligations on to our children.
Taxpayers have been overburdened in recent years by unnecessary government spending, promises and deficits that hurt our long term stability.
How Do We Pay for Michigan’s Crumbling Roads?
In addition to my work in Lansing on Feb. 13, I was joined by State Rep. Marilyn Lane for a bi-partisan roads town hall. What a wonderful turnout and response from Macomb County residents. There is definitely an interest in figuring out ways to improve our current problems with the roads.
Joining us as panelists were State Rep. Ken Goike, State Rep. Lesia Liss, Director of the Macomb County Department of Roads Robert Hoepfner, Manager of the Macomb Transportation Center for MDOT Drew Buckner and civil engineer Roy Rose.
Our town hall received attention in the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press for its bi-partisanship. Like the weather, we are all affected by the roads we use. This is not a matter of Republican vs. Democrat but a situation that needs to be addressed now in order to avoid passing the problem on to our children and grandchildren.
Our informative event brought out a crowd of more than 120 concerned Macomb County residents who had an opportunity to ask questions to the panelists. Many addressed concern that a large portion of the gas tax revenue is not going to the roads.
The panel offered an interesting set of perspectives from state representatives to officials from Michigan road agencies and even a private businessman. As many in attendance echoed, there is a great deal of work that needs to be done!
If there is one thing that I took from this town hall is what I was quoted saying in the Macomb Daily. “Our citizens pay one of the highest taxes on gasoline in the country with the lowest amount going to roads.” I will be giving that sentence some hard thought as we try to find solutions to our roads.
I was proud to be a part of this discussion and for those that were unable to attend. It was recorded and will be airing on local TV shortly.
L'Anse Creuse Youth Dialog Day
On Feb. 3 at Trinity Lutheran Church Community Center, L'Anse Creuse held its annual Youth Dialog Day. This was a wonderful event that allowed for an open discussion for our local youth regarding various issues that concern them. After a brief presentation, those in attendance (perhaps as many as 150) broke off into smaller groups of 10-20 and spoke together on specific concerns.
One of these specific groups highlighted ways for our youth to get more involved in local community organizations. Also, we highlighted how adults can coordinate outreach programs to the students more successfully. Many ideas suggested were: bright color fliers hung up around the schools; the use of social media like Facebook and e-mail; and transportation options for those who do not have the means to attend meetings and events.
As I listened to what the students were suggesting, the willingness to make a difference in the community was evident. However, many of our local community organizations usually lack in participation from young people. This is a main reason why I have always been excited to sit and speak with our youth about how important their participation can be.
We all remember the days when we were in high school and wanted to make a difference in the community. However, there was always something that came up which prevented our participation. Whether it was the pretty girl at the next locker or the sporting event coming up at the end of the week, we just weren't able to get around to volunteering.
It is clear that our youth have an interest in participating in helping make our community a better place to live. As I did on this Youth Dialog Day, I encourage all young people to make a difference in our community. And this does not have to be a group effort; a helping hand from a single person can always make a difference. There is no greater feeling than participating in a cause that is greater than us!
Selfridge Air National Guard Base Update
There also had been a great deal of concern over what is going to come of Selfridge Air National Guard Base located in Harrison Township. As a border state, it is vital that we maintain our presence as a leader in the defense of not just Michigan, but the United States in general.
Many of us are disappointed with the federal government considering downsizing Selfridge Air National Guard base, myself included. It will eliminate jobs, end critical services, and undermine a long tradition of military presence in our communities. I went through the BRAC process as township supervisor. It wasn’t pleasant, but in the end the federal government decided Selfridge was critical for the defense of our country. How can it be in just a few short years the politics of Washington is blowing again?
With that being said, too many of our veterans who serve at places like Selfridge face uncertainty when seeking post-service employment. Recent data suggests that approximately 30 percent or even higher of our veterans are unemployed. This is unacceptable!
Our men and women that serve this nation proudly deserve far better from employers when they finish their service. I have and will continue to encourage the business community to seek out these individuals for employment. We trust these young men and women with billions of dollars' worth of equipment; I would believe that they would make excellent employees in the private sector.
District Office Hours
Monday, March 12, 2012
8 - 9 a.m., Monday, March 12, at Big Apple Bagel in Harrison Township
7 - 8 p.m., Monday, March 12, at Dockside Café in St. Clair Shores