MANCHESTER — State Representatives Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline), Jeff Irwin(D-Ann Arbor) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) held a press conference Friday in Manchester to report on the response Democrats received during their recent statewide, Real State of Our State Listening Tour. Driskell held a Listening Tour in her district on Feb. 25.
"My colleagues and I wanted to show our residents that we are here to serve them, and that's why we took our Listening Tour," Driskell said. "Around the state we heard concerns regarding the significant financial challenges schools are facing and the negative impact on our children’s education. Just last week, the Washtenaw County Economic Outlook prepared by U of M economists reported that 'the overall poverty rate has increased by more than half between 1999 and 2011, the rate for children has more than doubled' here in our county. It’s clear we have lots of work to do to help our citizens.”
Zemke continued, "Michigan's budget is a reflection of our priorities. With K-12 funding levels at the same levels as they were in 2001, we are showing that education is in-fact, not a priority for Michigan. We hear often from the governor about the unfunded liabilities that our state has, but our largest unfunded liability is undereducated future generations of Michiganders."
The House Democrats are committed to introducing real solutions to problems facing the people in Michigan. During Listening Tour stops held around the state, citizens called for middle-class tax relief, restoring and protecting funds to public education, eliminating barriers to health care for women, and working cooperatively to find solutions for fixing our roads and bridges. Legislative priorities for the House Democrats will include:
- Repealing the tax on seniors' retirement income, restoring the per-child tax deduction, restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit to 11 percent and restoring the Homestead Property Tax Credit.
- Ensuring that the School Aid Fund is only available for use in funding K-12 education and increasing per-pupil funding by $320.
- Improving access to health care for women and children by removing barriers to health care centers and increasing access to family planning services.
"Republican priorities have left families facing higher taxes and our schools struggling to keep good teachers in the classroom," Irwin said. "Class sizes are increasing and Michigan is falling behind the competition in both funding and test scores. We want Michigan to have a prosperous future, but what we heard from residents here and across the state is that we are short-changing K-12 and higher education funding, our best investment in economic development."
Although his schedule did not permit him to attend the press conference, Rep. David Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti) was part of the Listening Tour and agreed with his colleagues, saying, "Gathering as Washtenaw legislators to hear the concerns of our fellow residents about the ways state government has hurt working families during the last two years made it starkly clear that Michigan is simply going in the wrong direction."
(This press release was issued by Rep. Driskell Office)