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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Career Training Will Help Students be Job-Ready

Proos_Average JoesThousands of Michigan jobs remain unfilled because employers cannot find enough skilled workers. To help meet this workforce need, Gov. Rick Snyder has called for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in our schools.

I am strong supporter of STEM and career and technical education (CTE) because applied learning done in coordination with public-private partnerships and STEM education can help prepare children for success and also meet the workforce needs of a growing economy.

Recently, my bill to connect unfilled jobs with classroom education and training was unanimously approved and sent to the governor to be signed.

Senate Bill 66 allows for the sharing of information between schools and businesses with workforce needs and provides students and parents with information on CTE opportunities.

The Department of Education would be required to provide CTE course information to schools and post online about CTE best practices from around Michigan and the country.

The department will also post online details on how CTE courses can be used to fulfill the state’s high school graduation requirements; information on successful CTE programs; and information on how schools can work with local businesses, public-private partnerships, trade organizations, universities and community colleges to provide quality CTE.

Applied learning is most effective when students who complete the courses are job-ready. That is why the bill also urges schools to establish programs that award credit toward a college degree or a professional certificate – giving students on-the-job training.

Proos Tours Cassopolis’ Ag-Science Program

Cassopolis Ag ScienceWSJM – Radio

Jason Scott Reporting

After introducing Senate Bill 66, which would help more schools bring technology-based learning to classrooms and promote career-based learning, state Senator John Proos was in Cassopolis this week to tour an Ag-Science program. Cassopolis Public Schools this year opened an Ag-Science program at the redesigned Red Brick School. The program allows students to spend half of the school day earning English, math, computer and elective credits in an agriculture-based curriculum. Proos says programs like these “provide educational experiences that help schools to meet the needs of every student.” The Cassopolis FFA program continues to be a force as it will send two state championship teams to Louisville, Kentucky to compete on the national stage.

Van Buren County Students Go to Lansing For Student Technology Day

ImageWKZO Radio

It was Student Technology Day at the State Capitol Wednesday, and some Van Buren County youths were there to show off some of the work they’ve been doing. State Senator John Proos says that he invited the kids up from South Haven’s Baseline Middle School and North Shore Elementary to show what technology related projects they’ve been working on in class.

Proos thinks it was good for lawmakers to get a first hand look at how technology can be incorporated in schools, noting that he work these Van Buren County youths have been doing demonstrates how technology can bring together elements like math and science, and teach cooperation.

Proos is pushing for more technology based vocational education in the state. He’s sponsored a bill that would help more schools bring technology to classrooms and promote collaboration between schools and job providers for career-based teaching into the curriculum.

Michigan Manufacturer’s Day Highlighted CTE Programs

David gooch; pres gary wheeler, glen oaks ccManufacturing helped build our state, and today it is responsible for one-fifth of Michigan’s gross state product and direct jobs for more than 550,000 residents.

I sponsored a Senate-approved resolution designating Oct. 4 as “Michigan Manufacturers Day.” The day was about celebrating an industry that is the foundation of our economy and helped transform Michigan into a world leader.

Manufacturing is part of the reason Michigan is ranked #1 in the nation for state recovery, helping reduce our unemployment by 35 percent — from a high of 14.2 percent in 2009 to 9 percent today.

I celebrated the day by visiting Sunset Tools in Bridgman, where I met with industry leaders, toured the facility and spoke to students about the promise that manufacturing holds for the future of our state.

After the lean times of the past decade, it is good to see Michigan manufacturing growing again. In fact, 88,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in Michigan from December 2009 to March 2013, ranking first in the nation and outpacing the next closest state by 50 percent.

This news is especially important considering manufacturing’s impact on jobs in other industries. For each dollar of final product manufacturers create, $1.40 of additional output is generated in other industries.

All of this would be impossible without a skilled workforce. That is why I have been a long-time advocate of expanding career and technical education (CTE) in schools and sponsored legislation to make CTE classes more accessible to students.

Manufacturers are creating jobs. It’s our job to ensure Michigan workers are trained to get and do these jobs.

Tele-Town Hall a Resounding Success

Proos on the PhoneI recently held the latest in a series of “tele-town hall” meetings to discuss our accomplishments and to hear from residents about their priorities. It was a resounding success with more than 7,800 residents participating.

I strongly believe that listening to the hardworking people of Southwest Michigan is vital and irreplaceable to being a good public servant.

During the meeting, thousands of families and job providers were able to hear what we have been doing and express their viewpoints.

In addition to having 14 people ask me live questions, everyone was able to give their opinion on a series of important issues facing Michigan.

While the reforms we made are resulting in an improving Michigan economy and reduced unemployment, pocketbook issues continue to be the top priority for Southwest Michigan.

When asked what issue is most important to them and their families, 49 percent of residents cited that more needs to be done to match students’ skills sets with jobs that are in demand. I could not agree more, which is why I will continue to stress the importance of career and technical training. In fact, only 37 percent of participants believed that their children or grandchildren had access to career and technical training.

I was encouraged that 79 percent of participants said they intended to visit an agri-tourism location this fall. As an agri-tourist, you can enjoy Southwest Michigan with family and friends, while also supporting local businesses and the entire community.

Thank you to everyone who called in and listened or asked a question. Your input valuable to me, and I always enjoy hearing your opinions. If you were unable to participate in the tele-town hall and have an insight to share, please contact my office by calling 517-373-6960 or emailing senjproos@senate.michigan.gov.

Sen. Proos Sponsors High School Tech Bill

Proos_Average JoesThe Herald Palladium

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, has sponsored legislation to allow options for students to count additional career and technical education, or CTE, courses toward meeting the state’s high school graduation requirements.

Senate Bill 66 would revise the state’s high school graduation requirements to allow seven credits to be filled either through the current route or through CTE courses, which would include work-based learning by a student such as an internship or apprenticeship.

In a news release, Proos noted he introduced his bill as Gov. Rick Snyder in his State of the State address called for increased skilled trades training to help meet the work force needs of manufacturers.

“I support a rigorous education that prepares our children for success in college and beyond, but we must also acknowledge that college may not be for everyone,” Proos said. “This is about ensuring our schools are about getting students ready for a career, not just ready for college.

“Education is not a one-size-fits-all business. Each child is different, and I am introducing this reform to give our students more choices and flexibility and allow them to prepare for the jobs that exist in our state.”

SB 66 was turned in on Wednesday and will be formally introduced in the Michigan Senate and referred to a committee this Wednesday, the next session day.