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Opinion | Michigan Democrats’ unsustainable spending puts pork over people

Michiganders want state government to keep our communities safe, build dependable roads, and give kids a good education — all while living within its means. But with Democrats in charge, our state’s newest budget neglects these essential services and spends so much on pork projects and unsustainable programs they’ll have to raise taxes just to pay for it all.

House Republican Leader Matt Hall
House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, is in his third term as state representative. He represents the 42nd House District, which includes portions of Kalamazoo and Allegan counties.

Democrats plan to spend a whopping total of $81.7 billion in the next fiscal year — throwing away our multibillion-dollar surplus and then some. And this wasteful budget doesn’t just eliminate all our state’s savings; it also spends money we don’t have. Our state income tax rate was cut earlier this year to 4.05 percent, despite Democrats’ best efforts to stop it. But a controversial legal maneuver by the attorney general could raise it back to 4.25 percent come January, and the new budget relies on that higher rate to balance out. Democrats are so giddy to raise taxes that they’ve already baked their tax hike into law.

With all that spending, one might think the budget would actually solve some of the biggest issues we face. However, Democrats used our entire surplus and every one of our tax dollars to splurge on partisan pet projects and hire hordes of new bureaucrats instead of investing to fix our local roads or support our law enforcement.

The governor ran for office pledging to fix the roads, but she has only focused on major state highways, barely lifting a finger to repair the local roads and bridges that are in the worst shape. And now, despite the historic surplus, Democrats still failed to distribute any additional funding for local roads. They merely picked a few politically-connected projects, ignoring the vast network of roads around the state still in disrepair. 

This spring, I personally sponsored a budget amendment to distribute $1 billion to cities and counties to fix local roads in every Michigan community, but Democrats rejected it — instead spending billions on pork projects for solar farms, zoos, opera houses, and more. This budget also offers a mere $80 million for a bridge repair program, only 5 percent of the investment I proposed — the $1.5 billion needed to fix every deteriorating bridge that is closed or in critical or serious condition.

I also proposed a $100 million public safety program to fill needs in local police departments and county sheriffs’ offices. Officer shortages are making our neighborhoods less safe, and many departments are in desperate need of updated equipment. Democrats rejected my proposal, leaving public safety departments understaffed and communities unprotected, while putting $100 million into one group of pork grants for pools, theaters, a cricket field and other projects. They also found room in the budget to fund a few unarmed social workers in lieu of the armed officers communities need.

In the school budget, Democrats eliminated dedicated support for school resource officers, who keep classrooms safe. Meanwhile, they spent $2 billion of our education dollars on new programs and projects — a “zen zone” for Novi staff, a new Lansing auditorium, and more. Altogether, these resources could have provided an additional $1,400 per public school student. That’s $2 billion that could have paid teachers or purchased tools to help kids learn in every Michigan classroom.

In addition to billions of dollars for pork projects, Democrats’ lavish budget creates unsustainable permanent programs, funds new advisory commissions designed to give Democrats political cover for their unpopular agenda, and hires more than 1,000 new bureaucrats.

Worst of all, the wasteful spending will demand more in taxes and fees from hard-working Michiganders. Not only is the overall budget built on a future income tax hike, but it also increases environmental fees on local businesses — fees that will then fund more bureaucrats to harass those very same small businesses.

The rising cost of living has already hurt Michiganders and local businesses, and there’s no excuse for raising taxes and fees just to pay for pork. Instead of Democrats’ plan to tax and spend our state into oblivion, we should make life more affordable for the people of Michigan while investing wisely to fix our roads and protect our communities.

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