When the Governor took to the stand last week to present his 2015 budget, I truly hoped to see better things on the horizon for the people of Michigan. When he spouted off talk of investments and “relentless positive action,” I hoped that this time he actually meant it. Unfortunately, looking over the numbers, the Governor’s budget proposal proved to be nothing more than an election year budget chock full of skewed numbers and empty promises.
As a mother of two, education is of the utmost importance to me. As a small business owner, I know that education is the key to economic prosperity – preparing our students to compete in the 21st century global economy is the very best approach we can take to recruit world class companies and top-notch jobs, stimulating economic development in our area and statewide. For these reasons, I listened very closely when the Governor spoke about investing in education. While the Governor’s rhetoric was very rosy, the numbers behind the math were fuzzy at best.
The Governor talked about a $100 per pupil increase – that’s the money that goes directly in our classrooms. Without context, that may sound like a great investment in our schools. Unfortunately, the Governor’s proposed increase doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency, the Governor and his Republican-led Legislature cut school funding by $470 per pupil their first year in office. The following year saw no increase, and the third year there was an increase of a mere $30 per pupil. Add in the proposed $100 per pupil increase, and you are still an incredible $340 per pupil below where we were when the Governor took office. The Governor can say all he wants about prioritizing education, but his budget history tells a far different tale.
Increasing access to higher education is also a primary priority of mine, which is why I was very interested to hear what the Governor had to say about investments in that arena. Unfortunately, after cutting public colleges and universities 15% in his first year, the so-called budget increase that the Governor announced still leaves his support for higher education $70 million below what it was when he took office.
As an Oceana County Road Commissioner, I know better than anyone the necessity of a complete overhaul of our roads and bridges. In the past, the Governor has proposed such a project, conceding that failing to do so now will cost our state far more in the future. Unfortunately, Senator Goeff Hansen and other Republicans have continually derailed such plans, and have instead thrown inadequate amounts of funding at repairs that do nothing more than put a Band-Aid on our wounded roads. As a result, the Governor’s budget this year offers one-time transportation funding that pales in comparison to the funding required for an overhaul – none of which will trickle down to local roads. This year’s record-breaking winter is emptying the pockets of local road agencies and further endangering the conditions of our roads, and it’s far from over. The funding offered in the Governor’s budget does nothing to address these issues.
In effect, the Governor’s budget was exactly what far too many of us have come to expect from this Governor and Republican-led Legislature – all talk, no substance. If we are to get Michigan back on track, it is essential that we prioritize issues like education and our roads; the issues that Michiganders truly care about. Once again, the Governor’s budget has indisputably failed to do that.
-Cathy Forbes, Democrat for the 34th District seat of the Michigan Senate