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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Republicans hold the wheel, are driving Michigan into the ditch

Republicans hold an absolute monopoly on power in the state of Michigan. With majorities in the House and Senate and with a Republican in the governor's office, they are positioned to do whatever they wish.

Yet, Republicans still struggle to check items off their to-do list -- and most of what they do get done hurts Michigan residents and slows economic recovery.

Take the recent Medicaid expansion debate. Under federal law, Michigan has to decide whether to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for three years, after which its share would be phased down to 90 percent, with the state contributing just 10 percent. Allowing expansion would make health care affordable to nearly 500,000 additional Michigan residents, including small businesses employees, and would save the state more than $200 million per year.

The deal is such common sense that it has attracted support across the political spectrum from Democrats to Gov. Rick Snyder.  Business organizations, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association of Michigan, strongly support the legislation.

After several false starts, House Republicans finally got on board with Medicaid expansion, and House Democrats cooperatively worked with them to pass the bill. The plan was then sent to the Senate, where it immediately stalled.

Republican senators are afraid to back the plan because they are terrified of primary election challenges from Tea Party candidates. They have decided to put primary politics before good policy that would extend medical benefits to nearly half a million residents, bring financial relief to Michigan's small businesses and save the state millions.

Even worse than what Republican legislators have failed to accomplish is what they have succeeded in doing to Michigan residents.

Since taking control of the state in 2011, Republicans have imposed deep cuts to local public schools, robbing our children of nearly $2 billion. We're now seeing the effects: higher class sizes,shortages of computers and school supplies, failing school districts and shuttered schools. Republicans insist that they haven't cut school funding because they have put millions of dollars into teacher pensions, but Michigan residents are smarter than that. Michiganders know that student success depends on a lot more than teacher pensions; it requires that adequate resources reach the classroom to positively impact student learning.

Michigan's middle-class families have also borne the brunt of Republicans' short-sighted policies.

The governor and legislative Republicans gave billions of dollars in tax giveaways to big corporations and paid for them by increasing taxes on residents. They forced seniors to pay a new tax on retirement income. They eliminated  the Homestead Property Tax Credit for 400,000 taxpayers, gutted the Earned Income Tax Credit that rewards low-income employees who choose work over welfare, and eliminated the $600 per-child tax deduction for all of Michigan's families. Incredibly, the governor and legislative Republicans argued that these tax changes would create jobs. Not surprisingly, they haven't.

There is a better way. The House Democratic caucus unveiled our budget priorities and identified how to pay for them by cutting corporate welfare and government waste.

We called for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax relief for Michigan families, by eliminating the new Republican tax on seniors' retirement income, restoring the Homestead Property Tax Credit for all Michigan residents, reinstating the per-child tax deduction, and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit.

We proposed investing hundreds of millions of dollars in early childhood education, in K-12 schools, and in colleges and universities. Most importantly, these funding increases would be tied to reductions in class size and making college more affordable. Investing in quality education is the key to our state's economic growth and to the future success of our young people.

Unfortunately, Republican legislators refused to incorporate the vast majority of these important priorities into the budget. We will continue to fight for the things Michiganders value most: education, opportunity, and rewarding hard work through tax relief.

Republicans have made their missteps entirely on their own. Republicans hold a monopoly on power and have no one to blame but themselves. Republicans can't point the finger at anyone else, and they would be smart to hold themselves accountable now, before voters do so at the ballot box.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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