In November 2010, I was elected to work with the Governor and my fellow legislators to fix Michigan. In 2011 we fixed quite a bit, reflecting one of the most productive legislative sessions in decades. As we begin 2012, we are already seeing some of the results of our work and the work of our fellow Michiganders to restore our state to prominence.
We started 2011 with an unemployment rate of 10.7% (U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics). We start 2012 with an unemployment rate of 9.8% (U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics). We started 2011 with a structural deficit of $1.5 billion. We start 2012 with a projected budget surplus of up to $1 billion.
Let’s review some of the policies and legislation from 2011 that helped to start off 2012 on the right track. We started the year off focusing on fiscal responsibility. We passed a balanced budget four months early that fixed our structural budget deficit and cut over $700 million in total spending.
Not only did we restore responsible spending practices, but we also eliminated the job-killing Michigan Business Tax and replaced it with a simple, flat 6% corporate income tax. Over 95,000 SMALL businesses in Michigan are no longer subject to double taxation and no longer have to file a state income tax form.
I worked to support our local communities with a bill to sell the Scott Correctional Facility in Northville Township. I’m working with both the House and members of both parties to relieve congestion at the Ford/I-275 interchange and I am working on ways to put the Detroit Steel Company land in Trenton back to productive use.
In order to provide better visibility into how we are spending your money, I have introduced game changing transparency legislation. I led the way with metrics-based accountability as the Senate appropriations subcommittee chairman for last year’s Michigan State Police and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs budget. Our transparency reforms in the legislature set the stage for more timely and accurate measures in the Governor’s dashboards that will help our government make better, more informed decisions about the appropriation of your hard-earned tax dollars.
Once we had our fiscal house in order, we proceeded to work on other reforms. As a member of the Senate Education Policy Committee, I have worked with my fellow legislators in a relentless pursuit of educational excellence. Our first major accomplishment was a transformation of teacher tenure. Tenure is now tied to performance not longevity so that we have the best teachers in our kid’s classrooms.
We followed tenure reform with a profound shift in the delivery of public education that encourages educational excellence through competition. The removal of the cap on the number of charter schools in the state not only provides parents with more options for the education of their children, it also incentivizes all schools to provide excellent education services or risk the loss of per pupil funding from the students that choose to be educated elsewhere.
I believe that there are many ways to lead that have nothing to do with passing a bill. Some of my most rewarding moments as your senator have come about because of events we have coordinated outside of Lansing.
The new Freedom Center at Detroit’s Metro Airport is a case in point. I put together a team of veterans, community volunteers, corporations and the Wayne County Airport Authority to open up a new, permanent hospitality center for our troops, veterans and their families.
In addition to the Freedom Center, we have worked with the Attorney General’s office to advise seniors of scams that should be avoided, conducted several business roundtables, hosted community forums on key issues and even leveraged my Aerospace Industry experience to pursue partnerships between local businesses and NASA in conjunction with the Detroit Regional Chamber.
These are just a few examples of the ways our elected officials can have positive impact on our state without adding new wings to Michigan law libraries.
You do make a difference when you vote. In 2010, you helped bring a fresh perspective to the Senate by helping to elect a political outsider. As we launch 2012, please continue to stay involved by following our progress at www.SenatorPatrickColbeck.com or contacting us at 866-262-7307.
We already have much to be thankful for, but we are just beginning to turn our state around. It truly is Morning in Michigan.