House Dems Blast Republicans for Ignoring Seniors, Families and Workers

Dems give failing grade on report card; Governor, leadership left Michiganders behind while giving tax breaks to big business that have yet to create one job
Friday, December 16, 2011

LANSING - At a Capitol press conference today State Representative Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (Detroit) joined her House Democratic colleagues in emphasizing that the Governor and Republican majority made 2011 one of the worst years for Michigan residents by not only refusing to address critical needs that would help seniors, families and unemployed workers, but rather by attacking them. Instead of focusing on job creation, the Governor and Republican lawmakers used 2011 to pass legislation that hurt Michigan residents by raising taxes, targeting unemployed workers, and endangering our students by gutting education funding.

“The people of the city of Detroit are buckling down and working hard to revitalize Michigan’s economy and our city,” said Talabi. “Unfortunately they’ve received very little support in their efforts from the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Governor. Instead of promoting programs that put our workers back on the job and allow residents to stay in their homes and keep their heat and lights on, they’ve pushed policy which supersedes local control through emergency financial managers, made drastic and unnecessary cuts to our schools, taxed our seniors’ pensions and abandoned programs like the Low Income Energy Efficiency Fund which helps residents pay their high heating bills in Michigan’s coldest months.”

The harmful agenda continued this week when the majority party approved worker compensation and unemployment insurance legislation that will make it more difficult for workers to qualify for both. And education took another blow when Republican’s chose not to return over $400 million to classrooms, but instead to open the state to more charter schools ignoring that 75 percent of current charters are in the bottom half of performance for all schools across the state. To add insult to injury, Republicans also acted to slash funding for the program to help low-income residents with their winter heating bills, despite there being plenty of money in the bank for this program. This decision could leave thousands of families without help and facing utility shut-offs this winter.

Republican policies that have benefitted big corporations and their wealthy owners and stacked the deck against Michigan workers and families include those that:

  • Raided the state’s School Aid Fund, which had a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars, forcing local school districts to lay off employees, increase class sizes, close buildings, and cut busing, sports, and many other programs in order to subsidize an 83 percent tax break for corporations which fails to guarantee the creation of a single new job.
  • Taxed seniors’ pensions, which they have worked hard for all their lives and planned their retirements around.
  • Moved thousands of Michigan’s neediest adults and thousands more children off of state aid, cut off food assistance to thousands of struggling families and unemployed workers by enacting an assets test, and eliminated the Engler-era successful home heating assistance and weatherization program just as the first snows fell.
  • Decimated local control by enacting an Emergency Financial Manager law—an anti-democracy law that should be repealed. This law allows the Governor to appoint individuals with broad powers to dissolve democratically- elected local governments and school boards and stick cash-strapped cities with the bill.
  • Drastically reduced the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which will hurt 800,000 working families who rely on it to remain self-sufficient and take millions of dollars out of our local economies.
  • Endangered private sector safety nets by ending tax credits for donations to food banks and other nonprofits at a time when more and more residents, especially those from working families with children, are turning to them for help.
  • Vilified unemployed workers by becoming the first state in the nation to reduce the amount of time Michigan workers can collect unemployment from 26 to 20 weeks while asserting that unemployed workers don’t actually want jobs.
  • Threatened our communities and neighborhoods by cutting funding that local governments need to keep our police and firefighters on the street.
  • Make changes to the No-Fault Auto Insurance Law to slash medical benefits and homecare services, reduce payments to hospitals and doctors, and potentially push victims to Medicaid for care when insurance coverage runs out. On top of that, the Republican majority included a $50,000 appropriation to prevent a voter referendum because they know voters have rejected these same changes twice before!
  • Slashed funding to community colleges and universities by 15 percent, putting job training and a college degree further out of reach for middle-class families and displaced workers.
  • Voted to remove the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Michigan, although little oversight or quality control is included and despite the fact that three of four existing Charters are failing. A flood of new schools siphoning off money from existing schools threatens our whole K-12 system.