Abdul El-Sayed, a Democratic candidate for Michigan governor, released a series of urban policy proposals Monday, including plans to repeal the state emergency manager law, reduce prison sentences, strengthen housing protections for renters, incentivize “green” infrastructure and increase the minimum wage.
El-Sayed said in his announcement that he hopes the initiatives proposed in the nearly 40-page document will combat critics’ charges that progressives aren’t rigorous enough on policy. He added that he hopes to mitigate concerns about the cost to taxpayers by “rethinking and tweaking policies” that already exist.
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“This is not just a set of spending goals, but rather it is a way to rethink how a series of policies work together to empower cities and to empower our state overall,” El-Sayed told reporters Monday.
El-Sayed, a Michigan-born, Ivy League-trained physician, is considered a rising star in progressive circles, entering the governor’s race after serving as chief of Detroit’s health department. Recent polling showed him still trailing Democratic frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer but in a nearly statistical dead heat with GOP favorite Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Among other initiatives, El-Sayed proposes tuition-free college for students whose households earn less than $150,000 annually. He suggests reinstating the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit back to 20 percent of the federal credit, raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour and replacing the state’s emergency management law with consent decrees with local legislators.
His plan also includes broad changes to the funding structure for public transportation in urban areas, including plans to contribute portions of the Transportation Economic Development Fund — a state grant program intended for projects that would increase Michigan’s ability to compete economically — to public transit initiatives and proposals to allow cities to levy taxes on transit users in the area if approved by resident voters.
El-Sayed said he is confident that even if Democrats don’t reclaim a majority in either the state House or Senate this year, voters would drive the Republican-dominated legislature to support his policies.
“Our ability to drive the wave, to really pull out progressives from all over the state of Michigan, to be able to create momentum, are substantially higher than (any other Democratic candidate for governor),” El-Sayed said. “I intend to leverage the momentum that we've created, that will ultimately get me elected governor, to drive forward a policy agenda that matters.”
El-Sayed said his campaign plans to release policy proposals on rural initiatives, education, the environment, healthcare and more in the coming months.