Happy New Year’s Eve!
Today is my final day as your State Representative. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
What I heard from the residents in District 55 during the campaign two years ago was:
· I am unemployed.
· Our son/daughter/neighbor/niece is unemployed.
· Our son/daughter had to move out of state to get a job. I was hoping to see my grandkids more.
· My employer has laid off many employees, but I am lucky to still be working.
· The house next door is in foreclosure. The value of the houses in our neighborhood is dropping like a rock.
· I can’t get financing for my small business despite my being in business for many years.
· I don’t know how much longer I can hang in there and stay in business; it’s been so slow….
· I am so tired of the inability to get things done in Lansing. Not being able to balance a budget before the October 1 deadline is ridiculous!
· We’ve got to control spending in Lansing to balance the budget.
· Our roads are terrible!
· No one is listening to us voters!
In short, we needed to create a better business climate to create jobs and address the state’s budgeting problems. We have made progress in the past two years:
· We eliminated the job-killing Michigan Business Tax which taxed small businesses twice, and replaced it with a simple, fair and efficient Corporate Income Tax.
· Numerous regulations were eliminated to create a more favorable regulatory environment.
· The personal property tax on business equipment (which discouraged existing equipment to be replaced by more competitive equipment and made Michigan less competitive for manufacturing businesses) was repealed.
· The Michigan Workplace Fairness and Equality Act makes it illegal to require a worker to be a member of a union as a condition of his/her employment.
· We have made major changes in our state’s budget structure by closing many “tax loopholes” (also known as tax expenditures), both for businesses and individuals. Some of these decisions have not been easy or popular, such as the elimination of the exemption from the Michigan Income Tax for pensions. We cut $1.4 billion of spending in the 2011-12 budget. We have paid down debt and have put some money away in the rainy day fund. We reduced the unfunded liability in the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) by over $15 billion.
And we did all this while passing a budget by the end of June in both years, in contrast to the inability to pass any budget in Washington in the past three years and face the “Fiscal Cliff”. The importance of this is that businesses can feel more certain that they will not face significant changes in the taxing and regulatory structure in the future, making planning easier and Michigan a more attractive place to locate and grow their businesses – and that means jobs for Michiganders!
In short, we are sending the message that “Michigan is open for business.” Michigan’s economy has improved since 2010, but we still have many people unemployed. We are still too dependent on the auto industry. The housing market has improved, but the loss of value has changed many people’s plans for the future. As much as we rejoice on the improvements, we cannot be satisfied; we cannot rest on what we have accomplished in putting our workers back to work and our state on a sound financial footing.
Looking into 2013:
We did not get everything done we need to do. Two major issues I have concentrated on are unfinished.
· The reform to the MPSERS program, as important as it was, had a major piece deleted in the last minute negotiations between the House and the Senate before passage of Senate Bill 1040 in August. Senator Kahn, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, wants my help getting that done next year.
· More funding for maintaining our roads and bridges is needed, or MUCH more will be needed in the future. This is a big need statewide, but in District 55 that I have represented the past two years, MUCH more important in Monroe County. A lot of my work on this issue can be found at a website I have set up at http://ourmiroads.com/
There were several education bills debated in the lame duck session after Thanksgiving that will reappear in 2013:
· the Education Achievement Authority (placing the bottom 5% performing schools under new management),
· the “parent trigger” bill (which would allow the parents of students to petition a failing school to be put under new management) and
· a major rewrite of how school funding is spent as proposed by a special study performed by the Oxford Foundation at the request of Governor Snyder.
My previous work in schools allowed me to contribute some expertise in those discussions, and much work remains to balance the needs of our current school system where most of the students will remain even after further reform, while giving hope for the future for those students stuck in non-performing schools.
As I write this, I am not yet certain in what role I will be contributing my services to deal with these remaining issues. I expect to have options. However, one thing I will not forget is all of the input I have received from so many of you in the past three years in the campaign and while serving as your State Representative. It has certainly been a pleasure serving you, and I expect to continue to serve in some other capacity.
While I will not longer be able to be reached by the official State Representative office, my personal contact information will remain the same. Adam Zemke will be representing the portion of the old District 55 that is in Washtenaw County, while Dale Zorn will represent the six townships in Monroe County that I have had the opportunity to represent. For all official matters, I am sure they will be able to handle your concerns.
Rick Olson, State Representative, 55th District
525 Judd Road
Saline, MI 48176