When I first contemplated serving in the Senate, I developed seven key areas of focus. Now that I am in the Michigan Senate, I wanted to provide a progress report.
Key #1 – Become the #1 Job Growth State in the Nation: I was one of the original co-sponsors of a bill in the Senate to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) and supported legislation passed in the Senate that eliminates the MBT and its burdensome surcharge. Small businesses will no longer be taxed twice and corporations have a simple, flat tax rate of 6%.
In addition, I am co-chair with Representative Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak) of the bipartisan, bicameral SE Michigan Caucus featuring joint economic development projects in the southeast Michigan region.
I also launched the T.I.M.E.D. (Time is Money Economic Development) Initiative to take a fresh, systematic approach towards accelerating economic development projects throughout our state.
On the horizon is Labor Freedom, another major initiative that will help to add Michigan to the ranks of the highest job growth states in the nation.
Key #2 – Effective Health Care Solutions: I am leading the effort in the Senate for Michigan to join with 14 other states in pursuing a Healthcare Compact. This compact would allow Michigan to opt out of the onerous provisions of the recent nationalized healthcare legislation that came out of Washington, D.C.
I am also promoting high quality, lower cost healthcare alternatives such as Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) that leave decisions about care between the doctor and patient, not a federal bureaucrat.
Key #3 – Cut Spending and Lower Taxes: We recently enacted a structurally balanced budget four months ahead of our constitutional deadline of October 1. This budget features a real cut in expenses of over $700M, but we need to do more to get government spending under control.
I have been a consistent voice for saying NO to new taxes including “No” votes on the senior pension tax, the freeze on the personal income tax reduction, and the new healthcare claims tax. I believe our state has a spending problem not a taxing problem.
Key #4—Educational Excellence: We need to refocus our educational system on results. The purpose of education is to develop good citizens not to preserve the status quo. Making changes to long-standing institutions challenges the status quo but results in a stronger education system for our children.
Legislators have shaken up this status quo by passing legislation requiring removal of ineffective teachers and prohibiting a Last-In First-Out hiring policy.
In addition, I have sponsored amendments to get up to $2100 per pupil out of administration and into the classroom, launched a Grassroots Education Focus Group and sponsored legislation to require instruction on the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Key #5 – Respect Our Constitution: The first criteria I consider when voting on any bill is, “Is it Constitutional?” Our Michigan and U.S. Constitutions reflect the collective will of “We the People.” We need to ensure that we honor this will and our oaths of office.
Key #6 – Adopt Real Transparency: I am spearheading transparency legislation that will make it easier for all citizens to see where every penny is being spent and reveal the true price of government. We will soon be able trace money to the core services that justify the existence of a government agency, support services (Human Resources, Information Technology, Accounting) that enable the delivery of these core services, and one-time work projects.
This information will arm legislators as well as our constituents with the data we need to manage our government services more like a business so that we maximize the value of every tax dollar that we spend.
Key #7 – Promote Honesty and Integrity: I have relentlessly pursued the truth on whatever topic is before the Legislature. This pursuit is not always popular. Some groups are extremely irritated when legislators ask simple questions like “How are we spending the money we do have?” or “How can we word this bill to apply equally to everyone?”
I represent all of my constituents, not a vocal few. While you may not agree with every vote I make, I will do my best to ensure that my vote is an informed vote. I will always be honest about how I voted and why I voted the way I did.
Michigan is now starting to wake up its economic engine. This wakeup call has not been without difficulties, but I am confident that our efforts will result in a broad-based recovery not only in our economy but in our spirits as more of our citizens are able to get back to work.