Proos: Economic Future is Optimistic

proos commercialHerald Palladium

State Sen. John Proos, seeking re-election in the 21st District, says Michigan’s economy is heading in the right direction, while acknowledging that it still has a long way to go.

“To say that the economy has rebounded for everybody, I think the evidence is clear that no, it has not,” said Proos, seeking a second four-year term in the Senate. “We have a long way to go to get back to where we once were.”

Before being elected to the Senate in 2010, Proos, 44, served as the state representative for the 79th district of northern Berrien County for three terms until he reached his term limit.

If re-elected, it would be his final term in the Senate due to term limits.

Proos is a 1988 graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marquette University and a master’s degree in higher education administration from Michigan State University.

Before he was elected to the Michigan Legislature, Proos was deputy chief of staff and district director for U.S. Rep. Fred Upton.

Following this November’s election, the 21st District will encompass Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties and will no longer include Van Buren County.

Looking up

Proos said he has talked to hundreds of people on their doorsteps “who are clearly not out of the woods. Not every family feels like they are back to where they were. Not every family feels they are in the jobs they absolutely want. But as the economy improves, they will be seeing the benefits.”

Proos said the state’s unemployment rate, at 7.2 percent, is half of what it was four years ago (while still ranked 47th in the nation).

Michigan leads the nation in manufacturing job growth and in the growth of personal income, he said.

He credits these improvements to a change in the business environment, including eliminating many regulations and replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate tax.

The reform has created a tax that is “consistent, fair and flat, with no special place for someone to hide,” he said.

The auto industry, aided by a federal bailout, continues to be a “major driver” in Michigan, Proos said. Michigan has seen rapid growth “in part because we had hit the bottom and had been bouncing along the bottom for many years.”

Proos said that the recovery hasn’t taken full effect for some businesses that are “just starting to reap the benefits of the tax changes that were made.”

Closing the skills gap

A lot of businesses are hanging out the “help wanted” sign but are having trouble finding the skilled workers they need. Proos said there are some 75,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the state.

Proos supports more career and technical education at the high school and post-secondary level and letting students know “that there is a job available today, and it’s not your grandfather’s dirty shop floor,” but a vocation for the future.

Proos defended Gov. Rick Snyder’s record on funding for K-12 education.

“What is clear is that there has been over $1 billion in new funding for schools since Snyder came into office,” Proos said.

Articles have pointed out that much of that increase has gone toward shoring up the teachers’ retirement system.

Proos called that “living up to our obligations to those who have taught our children in the past.”

“As our economy improves, there isn’t a doubt that we should find a way to put more money into our classrooms,” Proos said.

Another area that needs a large infusion is the state’s roads, Proos said.

He has heard estimates that range from $800 million a year up to $2 billion a year are needed, and he isn’t sure which figures are accurate.

“What I do know is that additional funding for roads is necessary to manage the safety and security of the goods and services and the people being transported down our roadways.”

The first thing that needs to happen, Proos said, is to assure taxpayers that every dollar they pay at the pump in gas taxes, that is not constitutionally obligated for other areas, goes into roads. He noted that about two-thirds of the 6 percent sales tax on gas goes to schools and local governments.

Making sure that money comes off the top of a taxes for roads would guarantee the federal matching funds of between $400 million and $500 million a year, Proos said.

He does not support an increase in vehicle registration fees to fund road repairs because that would hit residents on fixed incomes, and small businesses and farms that would pay more for every vehicle they use.

Proos voted against an increase in the state’s minimum wage, believing that the cost to businesses would be passed along to consumers.

He did support right-to-work legislation that allows employees to choose whether to belong to a union and support it with their dues.

“Freedom to work is a step in the right direction to changing the image of Michigan nationally and internationally as a place welcoming to business,” Proos said.

Stopping meth

Legislative initiatives supported by Proos include the creation of the NPLEX system that allows pharmacies to keep track of the sale of ingredients used in methamphetamine, and to stop sales to people over the limit.

Law enforcement agencies have told Proos that this has stopped the sale of 3 million grams of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and allowed them to investigate where these ingredients are being sought in large quantities.

Proos launched the “Swift and Sure” sanctions for people on probation, with immediate jail time for those who fail random drug tests.

Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock, who oversees the “Swift and Sure” program here, told Proos that the rate of probationers failing drug tests has fallen from 71 to 4 percent.

“A decrease in crime in our communities means less victims and less costs in the community, while changing people’s lives,” Proos said.

Proos said meeting and listening to constituents is the most important part of his job, and his office has handled 12,000 cases for citizens in four years.

That has included explaining tax law changes to local school administrators, and helping businesses including the new Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer and the rebuilt Stray Dog in New Buffalo obtain liquor licenses.

“If folks know their voice has been heard and they know that I have listened to their thoughts and concerns and considerations, I think they have a better chance to feel as though their government has been responsive, even if it’s not in agreement with their position,” Proos said.

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Consider Taking Amtrak For Your Holiday Travels

In a world where we are constantly connected, the holiday season offers us a chance to cast the worries of our everyday life aside and really reconnect with our loved ones.

If you will be traveling this holiday season to gather with family and friends, I encourage you to consider taking the train.
Amtrak is a great way for people to travel without worrying about traffic, weather or gas prices.

Riding the train offers a unique opportunity for riders to sit back and unwind as they travel, while also helping ease the pressure on gas prices and reduce road congestion.

Amtrak ridership in Michigan increased 4 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Nearly 909,000 people rode the train in Michigan last year — up from about 874,000.

Most traffic was on the Wolverine route that travels through Pontiac, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and several cities on its way to Chicago. Michigan also has the Pere Marquette between Grand Rapids and Chicago and the Blue Water route that features stops in East Lansing and Kalamazoo as it connects Port Huron to Chicago.

With Amtrak more popular than ever, I encourage Southwest Michigan residents who are considering taking the train for the family holiday trip to make their reservations early.

Check out Amtrak.com for further information. Residents may book trips, change reservations and print eTickets through Amtrak’s eTicketing site at: http://www.amtrak.com/deals.

Amtrak continues to give Michigan families options to enjoy their travels.

Most importantly, Amtrak can help residents gather together with loved ones and enjoy the Christmas holiday.

Senator Proos: Roadwork Funding a Priority

WSJM – Radio

Michael Arney Reporting

State lawmakers remain on break until early next week, and are getting the chance to get back out in the communities where they serve. State Senator John Proos joined WSJM’s Pat Moody Tuesday morning and tells us a lot of work remains before the end of the year in Lansing.

Governor Snyder had proposed doubling fees for vehicle registrations to pay for roadwork, with that idea going nowhere. Proos has floated the idea of passing a law to ensure the money paid in fuel taxes goes where it was intended, which is roadwork.

Proos: $440 Million Surplus “Great News”

WSJM – Radio

Jason Scott Reporting

Fiscal experts report revenues are exceeding projections, putting the state of Michigan in the black by $440-million. State Senator John Proos says this is great news, but also asks “where should the state spend it?”

Proos says the better than expected revenue number means efforts to revitalize Michigan are working, and the state remains fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.

Proos Says Snyder Deserves Credit for Michigan’s Comeback

By Mike Arney

WSJM – Radio

Concussion Bill SigningFor the first half hour of Governor Snyder’s third State of the State address, he looked back on the progress the state has made over his time in office before launching into his 2013 goals. State Senator John Proos says Snyder can take a lot of credit for where the state is compared to what the Republican governor inherited.

Proos said in terms of Snyder’s top priority of coming up with more money for roads, there needs to be a bi-partisan solution. The governor has reportedly been shopping his plan to legislative Democrats to get their backing in the event he doesn’t have enough Republican votes to increase the amount of money we pay to register our vehicles, among other ideas. Proos says along with repairing the roads, US 31 needs to be finished, as southwest Michigan has waited long enough.

Non-Partisan Pamphlet on Statewide Ballot Proposals Available

On Nov. 6, each Michigan voter will have a chance to play an important role in establishing public policy and setting the direction for our state. Not only will voters have the opportunity to select their elected leaders, but you will be asked to consider six statewide ballot proposals.

Proposal 12-1 is a referendum on whether to keep the Emergency Manager Law and the remaining proposals would amend the Michigan Constitution.

By now you have undoubtedly seen the various ads on TV or in your mailbox by the numerous groups trying to persuade you.

I invite Southwest Michigan voters to contact my office to obtain a non-biased, non-partisan newsletter containing information to help familiarize you with the pros and cons of these six proposals.

The pamphlet includes the actual language that will appear on the ballot along with brief analyses of the important issues at hand.

I want to make it clear that the analyses do not necessarily reflect my views. The information was approved by both Republican and Democratic staff with the intent of giving you the strongest arguments for and against each proposal so that you can make an informed decision on the issues.

Keep in mind that this pamphlet is only about the six statewide ballot proposals. Depending on where you live, there may also be other local or regional questions on your ballot.

Southwest Michigan voters who would like this informational pamphlet may contact my office at 517-373-6960 or by email at: senjproos@senate.michigan.gov. The newsletter is also available as a free download from my Senate website at: http://www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Statewide Ballot Proposals”.

Reform Signed to Fix Michigan Roads Without Raising Taxes

Michigan has struggled every year to identify enough dollars to qualify for federal matching transportation funds, but not anymore. The governor recently signed my reform to fix this problem by dedicating $100 million already paid by consumers at the pump and investing it in the maintenance and improvement of our roads and bridges.

I believe Southwest Michigan families and job providers are already paying enough at the gas pump.

With a federal matching rate of roughly 4 to 1, I am proud to say that this new law will mean about $400 million in funding to ensure our roads are safe and protect drivers from costly repairs – without needing to raise gas taxes.

To further help drivers save money, I encourage residents to follow fuel saving tips, use tools to find the lowest gas prices and report price gouging to the Michigan attorney general. For up-to-the-minute listings of the lowest gas prices in Michigan, visit www.michigangasprices.com.

Residents may report price-fixing or gas-gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-765-8388 or by visiting their website at www.michigan.gov/ag. Under the “Consumer Protection” tab is a link to “Gas Prices,” which offers valuable information on prices, fuel saving tips, travel tools and more.

As families head out on the road for that Pure Michigan summer trip, the cost of gas is a huge issue.

Thankfully there are great tools online to find the best price. It is also important to keep the price low by using fuel-saving tips and reporting gas price gouging. Taking advantage of consumers is never acceptable. If you see gouging, please report it.