Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Letter From Ellen Cogen Lipton - Democratic

This is a letter that a member forwarded to me that was written by Ellen Cogen Lipton - Democratic House Representative for Huntington Woods. It is a far different letter than the one below that was received from Hugh Crawford, Republican from Wixom/South Lyon.

Thank you for contacting my office and I appreciate your thoughts regarding the proposed budget and tax plans currently making their way through the legislature. Let me start by apologizing for the delay in responding to you. The concerns of my constituents are of utmost importance. Please be assured that I share your concerns, and will continue fighting against these most devastating budget and tax plan. This budget is a disaster, and its consequences will be felt for years to come, if allowed to become law.

Our state needs an economic plan to bring back jobs… instead we get a massive giveaway to business with no accountability and no guarantee of a single job. We get a 1,000 page budget bill that no one can hope to understand before voting on it. We get budgets that end proven job-producing programs like the Film Credits, and end funding for business incubators that help entrepreneurs set up shop and grow, and eliminate $25 million for recruiting new businesses to our state.

Furthermore, we get budgets that no longer require state departments to report to the Legislature on much of their activity, so there are no checks and balances and oversight is greatly reduced as to how our taxpayer dollars are spent. And at the last minute, instead of department-by-department budgets – which is how budgets are traditionally approved – House Republicans have pushed through one bill that funds all of state government and one bill that funds all public education in Michigan.

And now that the General Fund budget is being rolled into one huge bill, House Democrats have again not been consulted on the format or content, and the one hard-fought Democratic amendment that did win approval earlier in the process is being stripped out of the budget. In total, we offered 123 amendments. That's 123 opportunities to protect our children's education, seniors and families. Instead, Republicans delivered 123 rejections that will hurt Michigan.

Regarding the School Aid Fund, the House-passed budget slashed $1.1 billion in K-12 funding. These are cuts of at least $426 per student with some school districts being hit with cuts as large as $1,558 per student. When school aid cuts were first proposed in January, we were looking at a $650 million positive fund balance. Just last week, that number was updated to an almost $900 million surplus. Overall, the newly announced "budget deal" that slightly lessens the blow to our children is barely any better than the initial proposal.

As I traveled this entire state attending rallies, education forums and town hall meetings, I met with thousands of our residents who consistently said one thing…"Don't cut our schools." A recent survey by Michigan State University's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research found that the majority of people did not want lawmakers to cut education funding. By an overwhelming margin, respondents chose education funding (53 percent) as the last place to cut versus the next closest response (economic development at 17 percent).

This is not an economic plan; this is a handout to corporate special interests and CEO's.
This budget is full of difficult cuts that are contrary to the message the Governor gave at his inaugural, contrary to his local government message, and contrary to the message he just delivered regarding education.

The Republican tax plan that was forced through the House takes Michigan in the wrong direction. This new tax structure for our state does not represent the “shared sacrifice” that the Governor promised. Instead, it balances the budget on the backs of our children, our seniors and our working families – all to pay for an 82 percent tax break for corporations, with no guarantee of new jobs. And if this new tax structure takes effect, the residents of Michigan will NOT be able to repeal it, because the Republicans have again included a token expenditure [$100] that strips Michigan voters of their constitutional rights.

It is clear the House Republicans don't have any interest in making this a fair economic plan that will help Michigan rebound. It is also clear they don't care about accountability and transparency in state government – two things they previously trumpeted as critical to the process. I want you to know that even at this late juncture, I'm still committed to working in a bipartisan manner and finding compromise where we can to pass a fair and balanced budget. I hope my colleagues and the Snyder administration will join me so that we can find solutions that work for the people of Michigan.

Again, thank you for contacting my office with your thoughts and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in the future about this or any other concerns you may have.