State Representatives Vanessa Guerra (95th District) and Brian Elder (96th) put forth the legislative agenda for Michigan Democrats at a public forum moderated by SCDP Chair Paul Purcell at the SCDP headquarters on May 14.
Vanessa led off stating that over the past seven years of Republican rule, corporations and wealthy individuals have not paid their fair share to support State services. Dems want to change that. After punishing Michigan workers with a Right To Work law, Republicans are currently pressing to further hurt the middle class by repealing prevailing wage legislation. Dems can’t let that happen. House Democrats are proposing a prescription drug board to oversee prices and prevent price gouging. She also supports the Democratic plan to make community college tuition-free.
Lastly, but most urgently, we need to fix our roads and bridges. To do that adequately the State will need much more funding than the $1.2 billion currently in the works. Much of that could come from switching to a graduated income tax. The Republicans regressively increased the gas tax and vehicle registration fees for half of the funds, then raided the budgets of State agencies from the general fund for the remainder. Their remedy isn’t sufficient, nor is it a long-term plan. The State is proposing to spend $2 billion on bridges over the next ten years, but $3-4 billion will be needed to bring the rating up to even a good standard. In the short term, Dems are proposing to make it easier and more sensible to file a claim for vehicle damage due to potholes.
Brian Elder picked up where Vanessa left off, indicating Michigan roads were recently graded at a D-. In addition to underfunded maintenance, part of the blame rests with the Engler administration that used cheap construction methods and did not build to the common 50-year standard. Financing the $5 billion per year road construction and repair costs could come from adopting a graduated State income tax similar to the Federal one. 92% of Michiganders would pay less under the plan. Currently, people who make $500K pay less as a percentage of their income than those who make less than $100K. That needs to change.
Brian also noted that we need to change our educational priorities and funding policies. Currently, skilled trades vacancies often go unfilled. There is less interest shown by youths in these generally lucrative careers and union apprenticeships are severely underfunded from the State. Most of the funds go to a private training company with Republican ties. Increasing per-pupil spending and lowering cyber school funding would help public education.
But in order for any of the Democratic agenda to succeed, we need to win back the State House and governorship this year. That’s a tall order thanks to Republican gerrymandering. In the last election, 54% of the votes cast were for a Democrat but only 43% of the seats were won. So get out and support your local Democrat in every way that you can!
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