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GOP agenda undermines our citizens

By Sen. Bert Johnson

From the failure of state Republicans to assign immediate effect” to the Medicaid expansion legislation to the ongoing attacks on workers and the poor, the GOP agenda has been overwhelmingly harmful to our state.

The lack of “immediate effect” for Medicaid expansion means it will not take effect until three months after the adjournment of the legislature. The governor’s budget director estimates this will cost Michigan taxpayers a whopping $630 million.

Attacks on the least affluent among us continue in earnest. It was recently reported since the beginning of 2013, the legislature has passed 13 of 29 bills — or 44 percent — targeting fraud, tightening restrictions or adding new requirements to public assistance programs. These include bills requiring welfare recipients to perform community service, tie unemployment benefits to passing a drug test and tying a family’s financial assistance to the school attendance of their children. Conversely, only 20 percent of all other bills have passed.

These bills are not sound public policy. It is absurd to punish an entire family, including other children, for one child’s potential truancy. These bankrupt ideas have been tried elsewhere. Florida has already performed the drug testing for public benefits experiment — and found they spent more on administering the tests than the amount they saved by kicking substance abusers off of assistance.

It seems as if these fiscally irresponsible and mean-spirited attacks are all the Republicans have left to do after they have raised taxes on the poor and the elderly, eliminated commonsense tax credits for things like homestead property and children, slashed taxes for the wealthy and snuck Right to Work through the legislature during the lame-duck session.

These moves were supposed to “reinvent Michigan.” What have been the results? Unemployment has increased for three months in a row. Forbes Magazine recently ranked Michigan the 47th best state for business, 48th in labor supply, 47th in economic climate and 47th in growth prospects.

Education has not been spared either. Michigan spends $572 less per student today than it did in 2008. That is roughly a nine percent cut to our investment in K-12 education, a cut larger than 35 other states have made. When Gov. Snyder took office, just over 20 school districts were operating in a deficit. Today, that number is almost 60.

Simply put, Democrats offer a better vision for our state and its people. My colleagues and I in the Senate have vehemently opposed these reckless initiatives. I have introduced legislation to reinstate the earned income tax credit (SB 128), repeal the onerous pension tax (SB 145) and increase the state minimum wage to $10 per hour (SB 203). As a caucus, we have been united in our push for increased K-12 school aid funding and in championing our bold Michigan 2020 Plan (www.michigan2020.com), which would throw out unnecessary carve-outs for corporations in our state’s tax code in order to pay for college tuition for all of Michigan’s students.

Of course, the GOP — which is beholden to their corporate benefactors and the wealthiest among us — will never allow these initiatives to pass as long as they control the entire state government. The 2014 campaign is already under way. It is time to get to work and take our state back from those who not only do not care about us and our families, but actively work to make our lives harder.

Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District, which includes a portion of Detroit, the cities of Highland Park, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and all five Grosse Pointe communities. He can be reached at 517.373.7748, senbjohnson@senate.michigan.gov or at www.facebook.com/SenBertJohnson or www.twitter.com/SenBertJohnson.  

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