Legislators Should Pay 20-Percent of their Health Insurance Costs

As we all know, Michigan is facing a $1.8 billion budget shortfall this year. To help bridge this gap and fix our long-term structural deficit, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a budget that includes having state, school and local government workers pay 20 percent of their health insurance cost. 

Applying that 20 percent level to Michigan’s 148 lawmakers will only achieve modest savings when compared to the approximate $380 million that could be saved by requiring school and state workers to contribute the same amount, but I believe each of us must do our part to put our state back on track.

I believe that our state legislators should lead by example.  That is why we introduced Senate Bill 304, which would require all senators and state representatives to pay 20 percent of their health insurance cost.

Solving our state’s budget problems will require shared sacrifice.  We must all tighten our belts and get Michigan back on track.  In the past, I have voted to cut my salary by 10 percent and to reduce the budget for my legislative office by 12 percent over the past three years.

Before we ask a teacher or state worker to pay 20 percent, my colleagues and I should also set an example by making that same sacrifice.  And that is what we will do.

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Senators Unveil Plan to Cut Red Tape, Put Michigan Back to Work

My top priority is to create a positive business climate in Michigan that will make our state attractive to job providers. That is why Senate Republicans have announced legislation to help put people back to work and cut unnecessary red tape.

Senate Bills 271-279 are about job creation and recognizing the impact regulations can have on our economy.

According to Site Selection magazine, businesses look at the ease of permitting and regulatory procedures second only to the availability of workforce skills when choosing a place to locate or expand.

The bills would reduce burdensome red tape across all state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality which deals with energy permitting and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs which deals with business permits. The state agencies will also be required to consider the disproportionate effects rules might have on small businesses compared to larger companies.

This is vitally important since small businesses create more than 70 percent of Michigan jobs and are least able to absorb the cost of punitive regulations.

Measures in the eight-bill package would also level the playing field for Michigan job providers by shortening wait times when it comes to the permitting process and prohibiting rules more stringent than federal rules, unless authorized by state law.

These reforms will help create jobs and boost southwest Michigan’s economy, and I look forward to cutting the bureaucratic red tape and declaring Michigan open for business.

Pro-Farmer, Pro-Environment, Pro-Jobs Measures Signed into Law

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation providing new incentives to encourage Michigan farmers to voluntarily participate in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program –his first public acts as governor.

The program is a voluntary, three-step process to educate farmers, perform on-site assessments of environmental risks and require third-party verifications that measures are in place to promote soil and water conservation on their farms.

I have long been a strong advocate of this program – including being a key bill sponsor while in the House – because it has proven successful with southwest Michigan farmers for years.

I thank the governor for signing these initiatives because we must maintain a balance between supporting Michigan’s thriving agriculture industry and protecting our natural resources. Aiding Michigan’s second-largest industry is vitally important, but we also must hold accountable those who purposely harm the environment.

These acts will encourage more farmers to become MAEAP certified – with a goal of verifying 80 percent of Michigan’s agricultural production by 2015. Michigan will now provide farmers real, tangible benefits for their environmental efforts.

This proactive approach will help farmers understand the standards, save them time and money, and protect our natural resources for future generations.

Senate Panel Passes Bills to Help Boost Michigan Auto and Boat Sales

The Senate Finance Committee has passed legislation that would help spur vehicle and watercraft sales by reducing the cost of purchasing a new or used vehicle or boat in Michigan.

I strongly supported Senate Bills 126 and 127 because they will help southwest Michigan dealers complete with out-of-state sellers.

Michigan law currently puts our local, in-state businesses at a competitive disadvantage. When an individual today buys a new or used automobile or watercraft in Michigan, the state’s six percent sales tax is applied to the full sales price, even if the sale included a trade-in.

None of our neighboring states do this. It is a clear example of tax policy hurting Michigan job providers and consumers.

Under the bills, the sales or use tax would be applied only to the difference between the price of a new car or boat and the value of a trade-in. This smart tax reform could result in savings for Michigan consumers of several hundred to thousands of dollars.

SBs 126 and 127, known as the “sales tax on the difference” bills, have been praised by dealers who sell cars, trucks and watercraft.

As a border community, this change is necessary to help boost sales and create jobs southwest Michigan. It is a step toward bringing the state’s tax structure in line with nearly 40 other states, including all of our neighbors.