Transcript - Response to 2014 State of the State

The following is the official Democratic response to the 2014 State of the State address, delivered by House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills):
Thursday, January 16, 2014

The following is the official Democratic response to the 2014 State of the State address, delivered by House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills):

Hi. I’m Tim Greimel, the Democratic Leader in the Michigan House of Representatives.

While I represent parts of Oakland County, I’m equally proud of all of Michigan, and grateful to serve our state.

I want to thank you for tuning in tonight and for your interest in the policy discussion that will shape the future of Michigan.

It’s important to take a look back and understand why Michigan and its families are still struggling, even as the job growth of most other states outpaces ours.

Over the past few years, Republicans have demanded a lot of you and your family.

They’ve rewritten the tax code in a way that demands you pay higher taxes while corporations that donate millions of dollars to their campaigns pay much less.

They’ve created a new tax on retirement income, and on other forms of income seniors rely on.

They’ve slashed the Homestead Property Tax Credit for homeowners so severely that 400,000 families no longer qualify for it.

They’ve drastically cut the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, punishing many hard-working Michigan families.

And they’ve eliminated tax credits and deductions your family relies on: The $600 per-child tax deduction is gone, and so is the charitable giving tax credit.

As a result, Michigan families have seen their tax burden increase by more than $2 billion in just the past two years alone.

Meanwhile, Republicans have short-changed our young people’s future by dramatically cutting funding for local schools across our state.

That’s led to school districts closing buildings, laying off thousands of teachers and increasing class sizes for students.

Some school districts have even been dissolved because they couldn’t afford to stay open.

Others have been taken over by the state and are now run as charter school districts by out-of-state, for-profit corporations.

Instead of pursuing real school reform, Republicans have just offered experiments that benefit other for-profit corporations running online cyber schools in an attempt to deliver education on the cheap.

These corporations are beholden to their shareholders, rather instead of putting your kids first.

At the same time, the state’s biggest corporations were given a massive tax break.

Republicans reduced and eliminated taxes on big corporations and promised us that this would flood our state with jobs.

But it’s been three years, and those jobs are nowhere to be seen.

While the rest of the country has seen their unemployment rates go down, ours is far higher than the national unemployment rate and is the third highest among all 50 states.

In short, Republicans made your family pay higher taxes and weakened schools in exchange for jobs that never materialized.

The record of the past three years is clear, and the Republican plan isn’t working.

Even so, Republicans tonight laid out a roadmap for the coming year that just promises more of the same. But we don’t need more of the same.

We don’t need more financially struggling schools that can’t afford to stay open.

We don’t want to see seniors continuing to struggle to make mortgage payments, struggle to heat their homes and struggle to afford groceries because Republicans raised their taxes.

We don’t need more government handouts for big corporate special interests.

What we need are leaders who share your priorities.

We need a state that prioritizes better schools for our kids, so they can compete for the best jobs of tomorrow and so we have the talented and educated workforce that will attract high-paying jobs to Michigan.

We need economic security for middle-class families across our state.

We need tax relief for families like yours, so that you can plan for your future and budget for your children’s education.

And most of all, we need to make it easier for family-run small businesses to succeed and grow.

We need more jobs - good-paying jobs - so our kids can afford to stay in Michigan and start families here.

This is our plan to get Michigan back on the right track.

First, we need to get rid of the Republican policies that are taking a toll on our families, our schools and our communities.

We need to stop of the rapid expansion of for-profit cyber schools that are taking taxpayer dollars away from neighborhood schools.

We want to make sure taxpayer money, earmarked for education, is spent on your kids and on their classrooms - not on CEO bonuses and shareholder profits.

We know schools are run the best when their local communities - not state bureaucrats - guide them.

Second, when it comes to your tax burden, House Democrats know that you need relief.

Unlike Republicans, we actually have a plan to give it to you.

We’ve already introduced bills that will eliminate the new tax on seniors’ retirement income, restore the Homestead Property Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit and that will bring back the $600 per-child tax deduction.

A new proposal from Representative Andy Schor in our caucus would increase the personal exemption on the state income tax and reduce the tax burden for every individual and family in Michigan.

All of these proposals are ready to go.

All that is missing is the Republican will to work with Democrats to restore tax fairness for Michigan families.

Third, we need to make wiser choices about how your taxpayer dollars are spent.

Our state is currently facing a budget surplus of $970 million, and there’s currently discussion going on about how to use it.

Let’s be clear about what that surplus really is.

It represents nearly $1 billion in additional money your family was forced to pay through Republican tax increases.

That money comes from you, and it belongs to you.

That money should go back to you in the form of better education and lower class sizes for your kids and in the form of tax relief for your family.

We strongly support more investment in early childhood education, but that alone isn’t not enough.

We need to invest more in all levels of education from early childhood through high school and college to insure that young people are prepared for high paying jobs.

It’s important that we move quickly to invest in Michigan families and Michigan schools before special interests get their hands on these taxpayer funds.

Big corporations have received enough gifts from the state over the past few years.

Now, it’s your turn to get relief.

Fourth, we should use state resources to promote job growth effectively.

That doesn’t mean handing out billions of dollars to corporations and hoping they’ll create a few jobs.

Republicans tried that kind of trickle-down economics and it didn’t work.

Republicans made middle-class families pay $2 billion for a corporate tax break.

Three years later, we’re not much closer to a thriving economy.

In contrast, Democrats realize that small businesses - often run by families like yours - are the Number One creator of jobs in Michigan.

We should be supporting entrepreneurs who create jobs here and who will stay here.

Representative Theresa Abed of our caucus has introduced a proposal giving tax credits to businesses that hire the unemployed and that hire seniors who can’t find a job.

Fifth, hundreds of thousands of people around the state lost jobs in the recent recession, and many of you had to take lower-paying jobs just to get by.

That’s why we support giving Michigan workers a raise by increasing the state’s minimum wage, so that the hard-working men and women who put in an honest day’s work will get an honest day’s pay.

Sixth, we want to roll back Republican attacks on families’ economic security.

Recently, Republicans passed a wildly controversial bill that requires women to buy extra health insurance just to be fully covered.

Women in Michigan will now have to spend more money out of their own pockets for extra insurance to cover needed health care in the case of impending miscarriages or for abortions due to rape or incest or when the mother’s health is at risk.

Republicans did this because they caved into this demands from special interests and refused to let voters have their say through a statewide vote on the measure - despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Michigan residents oppose the law.

We believe you, the people, should be heard above the voices of special interests.

House Democrats are proud to stand against this law and against other measures that unfairly put the economic security of women at risk.

Finally, when it comes to transportation, everyone knows that Michigan’s roads are in a sorry state.

Unfortunately, every single infrastructure proposal from Republicans would require middle-class families and seniors to shoulder this expense.

We know that Michigan families have been taxed to the limit and that we can’t afford higher gasoline taxes and increased vehicle registration fees during this difficult economic time.

Instead, we need to make sure that overweight commercial trucks that cause most of the deterioration of our roads and bridges pick up their fair share of the tab.

These are our priorities - priorities we share with you.

Working together, we look forward to making Michigan a better place to work and retire, to grow a small business and to raise a family.