The most recent Lame Duck session, the period following the November election through the end of the 2011-2012 session, was the most tumultuous during my 12 years in Michigan’s Legislature. Leading up to the 4:30am adjournment of the last day of session, hundreds of bills were passed, most without public debate or public committee hearings. Some bills were discharged directly to the floor without a hearing and amended on the fly with no time to properly consider the language until minutes before other legislators and I had to cast a vote. This disregard for the legislative process, nothing less than a subversion of democracy, has become all too familiar in the single-party controlled houses of the legislature. Michigan would be well served to take a closer look at how its legislature has been doing business of late and consider some changes that might lead to better policy making and better policy.
--More After the Jump--
Businesses and consumers alike rely on quality roads. When our roads are in disrepair—which far too many in Michigan are—it costs us all time and money. It takes us longer to get to work or home and costs money for car repairs. Businesses rely on our roads to connect them to the community and their customers, and cannot afford traffic jams, increased transportation costs or shipping delays. Our roads literally get us where we need to go, and should be valued as such.
That is why I was pleased to support the Department of Transportation budget recently passed by the Senate. It was one of the few bright spots in this year’s budget, as it was one of only a handful of departments to receive an increase in these lean times. Overall, the budget received a $137.9 million increase over last year, allocating more money to pay for vital road projects and improve our state’s infrastructure.
This increase also enabled the Department of Transportation to provide matching funds to leverage vital federal transportation dollars. The Legislature must be responsible with every taxpayer dollar we are entrusted with. Anyone who has driven on Michigan roads knows that their repair is an essential need, but by securing federal money, we are able to get a significant return on our investment and direct even more money toward fixing our roads.
By increasing funding for the Department of Transportation, we are going to be able to make the repairs and improvements to our roads that they so desperately need. This will help our businesses thrive by improving accessibility and reducing company transportation costs. It will also enable customers to spend less at the repair shop and more at our local businesses.
The Transportation budget also included a $10 million increase for the State Aeronautics Fund that provides funding for investments and improvements at airports around the state. This fund is also extremely efficient and fiscally sound, using a 5% match each from state and local governments to leverage 90% in federal dollars. Also, the funding approved in this budget along with House Bill 4025 that would allocate a portion of sales tax revenue from aviation fuel and specifically direct it to the State Aeronautics Fund, will increase the State Aeronautics Fund enough to accommodate our state’s larger airports. This will enable Detroit Metro Airport to now apply for funding for improvement projects, bettering our region.
Transportation funding in Michigan is not only used to repair our roads and bridges, but update our airports and promote mass transit. These projects help improve travel and commerce alike, and I will continue to support efforts like these that effectively leverage federal dollars to improve our local infrastructure.
We are fortunate in Michigan to host a growing number of successful, cutting edge small businesses. This month, several celebrations are taking place recognizing the important role that small businesses play in our economy. In early May, small business owners and their advocates from across the state came to Lansing to show their support for the entrepreneurs behind these job creators at the annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business event, and during the week of May 20th which is the National Small Business Week.
Retirement is the end goal of every professional person. Most of us work to live, not live to work, and retirement represents the reward for a long, fruitful career and a job well done. It is a time of life when we can spend more time with our families and grandkids, indulge in hobbies and travel. Retirement used to be synonymous with safety and security, relaxation and comfort.
But with the continued attacks on our seniors by the Republican-led Legislature, retirement has become more and more of a tense and tenuous existence. Over the last two years, Republicans have been waging a war against our seniors, making them the scapegoats for all of our state's financial challenges.