Capitol and Community Update

March 15, 2019
Friday, March 15, 2019
Dear Friend,
 
Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for legislative updates and things to do this month, along with other community information.
 
Gov. Whitmer’s Budget FAQs
 
Earlier this month, the governor presented her budget with a focus on improving infrastructure, fully funding education and closing the skills gap in Michigan. Her aim is to re-align the budget with our state’s priorities. Gov. Whitmer has proposed raising revenues to improve infrastructure through a 45 cent per gallon gas tax. This would be implemented in 15 cent increments over 18 months.
 
The gas tax is controversial and has opened conversation about how much we are willing to invest in our state to have the infrastructure, education and skilled workers we need. It is also the beginning of a budget conversation that will involve the House and Senate as we develop a budget based on the wants and needs of Michigan’s working families.
 
After posting budget information on Facebook, I have been asked several questions by members of our community. I would like to try to summarize and address them here too, as many residents have the same questions. Here they are:
 
1)     Question: What about the 2015 roads plan revenue that was raised by Gov. Snyder? Did that money not go to roads?
Answer: The revenue for roads passed in 2015 allowed for yearly increases for road repair, reaching $1.2 billion spent annually by 2021. This keeps our road repairs very underfunded, because we actually need an estimated $2.5 billion annually for adequate road repair. 40 years of disinvestment has left Michigan roads among the worst in the nation. Because of the level of disrepair, the quality of our roads will continue to decrease dramatically if not addressed now. If this happens, it will cost taxpayers much more in the end because the roads would have to be completely rebuilt.
 
2)   Question: What about other sources of revenue, like marijuana and the lottery?
Answer: The sales tax associated with marijuana and lottery revenues have already been written into Gov. Whitmer’s proposed budget to support the school aid fund. Both sources provide very little revenue compared to the $15 billion that it will cost to fully fund K-12 schools and are not allowed to be spent on infrastructure anyway.
 
3)     Question: Will the revenue raised by gas be part of the general fund?
Answer: No. The revenue raised for roads will be placed in a restricted fund. This means that it will only go towards the cost of roads, bridges and infrastructure. General fund money will then be “freed up” to go towards other things that are greatly needed, like revenue sharing for our local governments.
 
4)     Question: Why do we have to raise so much money so fast? Why can’t we spread it out over time?
Answer: Our roads are crumbling NOW. We needed the revenue YESTERDAY. Over the past eight years, the Legislature has failed to address this issue fully; now it is up to us to do what is needed for our state. Once we get our roads back up to good quality, we will be able to do maintenance rotations that will cost significantly less and ultimately save taxpayer money.
 
5)     Question: Do you support the governor’s budget and gas tax?
Answer: I believe the budget experts when they say we need to raise $2.5 billion annually in revenue to fix our infrastructure. I also believe they have explored multiple alternative revenue options like increasing sales tax, income tax and fees. I support the governor’s request for more revenue, and I am also willing to explore a more balanced approach to finding that revenue, while continuing to look for budget waste, favors and inefficiencies at the state level.
 
I hope this helps to explain the governor’s budget proposal. Remember that it is only the first step in the process of negotiating a budget. We still have a long way to go.
 
Constituent Listening Tour
 
Join me on Monday, March 18, in Davison for the next stop of my constituent listening tour. I will be at the Davison Area Library from 4-5:30 p.m. Come sit down and have a chat with me.  Ask questions, make suggestions, get answers. See you there!
 
Acknowledging Agriculture
 
Michigan’s agriculture is one of the many great parts of our state. The food and agriculture industry contributes $104.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. This amount of revenue creates and maintains jobs. Michigan's food and agriculture system is a large portion of this state’s workforce. Total employment resulting from this sector is 923,000 which accounts for about 22 percent of the state’s employment. I am proud to be serving as the Democratic vice chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations sub-committee. With this position, I can help to ensure Michigan’s agricultural sector flourishes.
 
Coyote Season Safety Tips
 
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says coyote sightings will start to pour in during the predator's breeding season, which is January through March. Coyotes are fairly common in less populated areas of Mid-Michigan, but encounters with humans and pets are relatively rare.
DNR officials are sharing some tips to protect residents and their four-legged friends:
 
●     Never intentionally feed coyotes. Remove outdoor food sources and fence off your gardens and fruit trees.
●     Accompany pets outdoors rather than letting them roam free.
●     Never try to tame a coyote. Leave wildlife in the wild.
 
Events in the 48th District
 
Veterans Dinner 6 p.m. at Montrose Township Senior Center
 
The Montrose Township Senior Center is hosting a Veterans Dinner on Wednesday, March 20 at 6 p.m. This dinner is a salute to our veterans in honor of all who have served our country! Veterans and a guest are invited to share in the complimentary meal on Wednesday, March 20. Reservations are recommended; please call (810) 639-2822.
 
Prescription Drug: Prevent Abuse Forum by Rotary Club of Clio
 
The Rotary Club of Clio is hosting a Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Forum on Tuesday, March 19, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Rogers Lodge, 219 Rogers Lodge Drive in Clio. The forum intends to address questions like which prescription drugs are dangerous, how we can keep our prescription drugs secure and what we can do as a community to prevent the misuse of prescription drugs. The Genesee County Prevention Coalition, local pharmacists and a local medical professional will be there. For more information, call (810) 691-4801.
 
Ladies of the Lights
 
Join Michigan’s tourism connoisseur, Dianna Stampfler, at the Davison Area Library on Saturday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to noon. Ms. Stampfler will be talking about the “Ladies of the Lights” -- women before their time taking on the romantic, yet dangerous and physically demanding job of tending to the beacons that protected the shoreline. Join Ms. Stampfler and get to know the women who excelled in this profession over the years, dating back as early as the 1840s through the present day. For more information or to register, please visit the Genesee District Library website.
 
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.
 
Sincerely,
 
State Rep. Sheryl Y. Kennedy, PhD
48th House District