Last week, when the number-crunchers in Lansing were debating how much “extra” money might be in the state coffers next year and what to do with it, I didn’t hear nearly enough about how we can make sure we keep the focus on jobs and those who have been unemployed through no fault of their own.
Instead, too many folks seemed more interested in how they might continue to send additional tax breaks to the wealthy and keep Wall Street happy.
With the mess in Washington and the unlikelihood that Congress will restore the unemployment benefits they allowed to lapse just three days after Christmas, it is even more important that we here in the state do everything we can to help the jobless get back to work and keep their family afloat while they do. Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to hover at an unacceptable rate near double digits, higher than the national average. And the threat of losing the unemployment resources for good would not only hurt these families directly, it would eliminate the money they spend supporting their local businesses. That’s something Michigan just can’t afford right now.
I agree with those who are suggesting we get rid of the recent tax hikes on seniors, families, and workers. And the proposals to invest in our schools and communities make a lot of sense. But a few additional steps we should take include:
Measuring every decision by whether or not it helps people get or keep a good-paying job. Too often which special interest is louder or campaign donor benefits is more influential in the end. We need to make sure we also raise wages so that anyone who works hard isn't still living in poverty.
Restoring state unemployment benefits that were slashed a few years ago. Michigan was one of the first states to reduce state eligibility from 26 to 20 weeks and it will hurt families and our economy even more now that Congress has dropped the ball.
Stop taxing unemployment benefits. If you want to provide tax relief here is a good place to start, especially since not all states have this tax and we know these families would pump those dollars right back into our local economy.
These are just a few examples of steps we can take to keep the focus on jobs and unemployed families. We all know that good jobs are the key to many challenges we face in areas like education, public safety and health care.
As the Governor delivers his State of the State tonight, and the budget debate rages on in the coming months, I’ll keep listening for ways they plan on helping create jobs and making the economy work for every family.
Senator Ananich represents the 27th District which includes Flint and much of Genesee County. He serves on the Senate Economic Development, Transportation, Banking and Financial Institutions, and Health Policy Committees. You can find more information on his website.