Tyler responds to budget concernsPublished 9:11am Friday, September 4, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Governor Jennifer Granholm and Michigan state legislators are nearing their Oct. 1 deadline to complete a budget for the 2010 fiscal year and concerns are raised that a final plan won’t be approved – leaving the state to repeat last year’s shut down.
At the moment because no budget has been set school districts state wide, including those such as Niles and Brandywine Community schools are preparing to start their school year with no idea of what they can expect to see in terms of state funding.
In addition, certain groups coming together and speaking out on how they feel state lawmakers should be managing Michigan’s money.
Uncertainty and a fair amount of tension surrounding the issue seems to only be building.
“It really concerns me that it has dragged on this long,” State representative Sharon Tyler said Thursday.
Tyler, whose fellow state Republicans have already submitted their own proposal for reform, said she believed both the Senate and Granholm had submitted their respective plans – but lawmakers were still waiting on all proposals to be submitted and a decision to be made.
She said the uncertainty is particularly concerning when it comes to the state’s schools.
“They need a budget to know how to move forward,” she said, adding, “I’m very upset that it takes this long.”
The issue further affects the state’s students in regards to the Michigan Promise scholarship which some reports have claimed may not be available to students getting ready to start school. If lawmakers can’t put money toward the fund, those students who have already been awarded the scholarship face fears of getting started in the school year only to find they won’t be receiving the money.
“I don’t want to see our young people who have been promised something let down,” said Tyler. Still, she questioned whether the scholarship would be available in the future saying it shouldn’t be promised “until the state of Michigan can become financially sound.”
In both cases of school districts and students awaiting news of a final budget, she said, “I think when people know what they’re going to have, they can deal with it but it’s the unknown that’s frightening.”
Keeping education in mind, said Tyler in important when it comes to the state’s future. “If you have an educated group of students you will have a strong incentive,” for creating jobs, she said.
Wednesday, groups from throughout the state came together as on a united front to toss their own suggestions for reform into the proverbial state ring.
“Unless we reform and modernize Michigan’s finances now, our families will see deficits as far as the eye can see with no way to pay for critical services that protect people and invest in our future,” said Progress Michigan Executive Director David Holtz. “If we do nothing now, our kids won’t have the tools they need to compete for jobs. Our families won’t have the police and fire protection to stay safe. Our parents and grandparents won’t get the care they need. That’s not the kind of Michigan our families want and deserve.”
Called, “A Better Michigan Future,” the group said it addressed lawmakers out of concern that proposed cuts would severely threaten such public protection as to hinder police and fire departments.
“Since September 11, 2001 funding for police and fire protections has been reduced by $3 billion, taking 1,800 police officers and 2,400 firefighters off the street…” claimed the outline for reform, entitled ‘A Better Michigan Future.’
Some aspects of their proposed plan for reform include instituting a “graduated income tax,” reforming tax structures “in a way that reduces federal tax liability for Michigan citizens,” subject luxury and non-essential services to state sales tax and modify the state tax code “to enable collection of taxes on estates over $2 million by de-linking from the Federal Estate Tax.”
One thing that lawmakers seem to be in agreement on is the need for more cuts throughout the state as Michigan faces $2.8 billion deficit. Where those cuts should come from, is at the heart of the debate.
House republicans had offered up several cost-saving measures in their plan including in departments of agriculture, corrections, human services and higher education.
Tyler said that at the capital, officials are being “promised” that progress on the budget front will move forward next week.
“I’m hoping for the best,” she said.