Check out the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival!

Grand Haven is known as “Coast Guard City U.S.A.” in recognition of its tremendous support to Coast Guard personnel over the years.

Every summer, the community demonstrates its special relationship by hosting one of the largest festivals in West Michigan — the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival.

In this video, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof highlights the festival’s activities, details how it has grown over the years and encourages families to come out and enjoy it.

The festival draws thousands of people to Grand Haven to celebrate the Coast Guard and to have fun with the family at its famous Lake Michigan beach or at a variety of activities — from parades to carnival rides to fireworks.

At the heart of the Coast Guard Festival is the National Memorial Service, which takes place in Escanaba Park at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5. It is open to the public and focuses on the brave members of the U.S. Coast Guard, especially those who have “passed over the bar” in the last year.

Visitors can also step on board a real Coast Guard ship for a tour through Saturday, Aug. 6. For a tour schedule, visit coastguardfest.org.

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Tulip Time: Celebrating Dutch heritage for 87 years

 

Back in 1929, the city of Holland welcomed visitors for its first Tulip Time Festival in celebration of the community’s Dutch heritage. The response was so great that they made it an annual event. This year, the festival marks 87 years of Dutch traditional costumes, wooden shoes, parades, Klompen dancing, and more than five million vibrant tulips.

In this video, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof discusses visiting the festival growing up in West Michigan and the tremendous impact it has on the local economy.

In 2015, the Tulip Time Festival attracted an estimated 500,000 people who contributed $12.9 million to the West Michigan economy. Of the visitors surveyed last year, nearly 40 percent came from outside of Michigan and roughly two-thirds planned to return to the area for other recreational activities.

Readers Digest has named it the “Best Small Town Festival in America,” and USA Today readers recently voted Tulip Time as “America’s Best Flower Festival.”

One of the highlights of the festival each year is the Volksparade, in which thousands of locals in traditional Dutch costumes scrub the street. As has been the case for decades, several state officials — including Sen. Meekhof and Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker — donned traditional Dutch costumes and wooden shoes this year and joined in the street scrubbing festivities!

Commenting on the governor’s FY 2017 budget presentation

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, issued the following statement regarding Gov. Snyder’s fiscal year 2017 budget presentation:

“The governor’s budget plan reflects many Senate Republican priorities. Over the course of the past several years, we have made progress in Michigan by adopting policies and laws that fostered economic turnaround and prosperity for Michigan families.

“Unfortunately, recent failures at all levels of government have resulted in the spotlight once again being turned on our state. In the coming months, the Senate Republicans pledge to work with the governor, leadership in the House and our colleagues on the other side of the aisle through the budget process to bring additional aide to Flint. The Senate has already worked to pass more than $60 million in relief for Flint residents, but there is more work to be done. The crisis in Flint points to the need for a statewide dialogue about maintaining and improving infrastructure so that our citizens have confidence in all levels of government to help deliver basic needs like safe water. I am currently reviewing options for a statewide infrastructure plan for all communities.

“The Senate Government Operations Committee will continue to hold hearings on the education and financial crisis in Detroit Public Schools. In order for 47,000 children to receive a basic education, the state will work to resolve more than $500 million in debt. I am encouraged by the governor’s proposed solution for how to deal with the balance sheet, and I am eager to continue to work on how to best reform the district so that the students of DPS have a reliable and sound education plan.

“Over the course of the past few years, the Senate Republicans have supported more than $1 billion in increased funding for all students and we will continue to build upon our commitment to education in the next budget year. Increases to the foundation allowance are necessary to ensure more dollars enter the classroom to improve every child’s education experience. I am encouraged by the governor’s commitment to continue to pay down retirement and benefit costs so that dollars are not siphoned out of the classroom, but instead are available for learning tools and classroom supplies.

“My colleagues and I in the Senate have made commonsense career paths a priority. The governor’s desire to increase funding for universities and community colleges as well as money for technical and vocational training supports the Senate Republicans belief that education should be a pathway for each student to achieve his or her personal career goals.

“The governor’s plan echoes the Senate Republicans’ commitment to Michigan families by increasing funding for Healthy Kids Dental and providing additional resources for clothing allowances to better meet the needs of our most vulnerable children and families. Additional resources to increase public safety through the hiring of additional troopers and funds to deliver prescription medicines are in keeping with the Senate Republicans desire to keep our citizens safe and healthy.

“The budget presentation begins a collaborative process between the Legislature and the governor. The Senate will take time to review the specifics of this plan, communicate with our constituents and begin the deliberative process of working through the budget and working with the House and the governor to deliver a comprehensive plan for Michigan well in advance of our October 1 deadline.”

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Remarking on the 2016 State of the State address

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, commented on Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2016 State of the State address:

“I commend Governor Snyder for his attention to the public health crisis in Flint. As a father and a grandfather, I am dismayed by the failures that resulted in this crisis and the risk it poses to the children of this community. The families of Flint deserve our full attention and the Senate is ready to assist the governor to address these concerns.

“The crisis in Flint demonstrates a need for greater accountability and reforms to our state government systems. Bloated, unresponsive bureaucracy does not meet the needs of our citizens. Over the past few years the Senate Republicans have worked to improve state government, but clearly there is more work to be done. The citizens of Michigan deserve a responsive, competent team of employees and administrators that value accountability, safety and customer service above red tape.

“The job of government at all levels is to respond to constituents. As the customer complaint window for state government, legislative offices hear from citizens day-in and day-out who need help navigating bureaucracy. The Senate Republicans are eager to pursue ways to improve state government and ensure safety and accountability for our citizens. Like many people throughout our state and the country, I look forward to hearing more about a solution for the people of Flint.

“This year, the Senate is poised to tackle reform of our state’s largest school district. The children of Detroit have spent too much time in an education system that does not give them the tools necessary to be successful adults and citizens. The bottom line is, the families in Detroit and across Michigan deserve access to quality education choices.

“The Senate, House, governor, city leadership, elected officials, education professionals, community stakeholders and parents must all share in the responsibility of reforming Detroit Public Schools. While the Legislature can work to resolve the balance sheet, the active participation of the citizens and leaders of Detroit is critical to the long-term success of the students and the vitality of the city’s neighborhoods.

“Detroit’s turnaround will be for not if the children of that great city do not graduate high school, are not prepared for learning at our universities and are not competitive in today’s job market.

“The challenges in Detroit Public Schools are not entirely unique to that district. Many school districts are burdened by financial stress and a changing educational environment. My colleagues and I in the Senate will look more closely at potential reforms related to legacy costs. No student should be short-changed of dollars entering the classroom because of an unsustainable retirement system and mounting debt.

“These major issues bring about larger questions about system failures. The governor has not shied away from tackling the tough issues facing our state and his remarks tonight demonstrate accountability and forward action to help the citizens of Flint and Michigan.

“The Senate Republicans are prepared for another year of working with the governor, our colleagues in the House and members on the other side of the aisle to continue to improve Michigan and reform state government.”

2015 closing statement by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Olive Township, delivered his 2015 closing statement on Dec. 16 with a review of Senate Republican accomplishments in 2015. He also offered a look at his goals for the 2016 session. The Michigan Senate had a busy year in 2015 and 2016 promises to be just as exciting!

Senate passes comprehensive road funding plan

 

Blog - Roads graphicSenate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, issued the following statement upon the passage of a plan to fund Michigan’s roads:

“The Senate Republicans passed a commonsense, responsible plan to repair our roads and in doing so renewed our commitment to making government more accountable and efficient. The core principles of the plan remain the same: Existing resources are redirected to reflect roads as a priority in the state budget, new revenue is generated for a long-term solution and taxpayer dollars are returned to our hardworking taxpayers.

“Road funding and the condition of our roads have been growing concerns over the past several years. We have seen different iterations of a road funding solution, but none that garnered enough support to begin the process of repairing and adequately funding our roads. It has taken years to come up with a road funding plan and in that time the cost of bringing our roads up to better standards has increased. No one likes to pay more for services, but the people who drive the roads and cause wear and tear on the roads should contribute to road maintenance. Additionally, as technology improves and driving habits change, we know we need to diversify how we pay for roads and a responsible increase in registration fees brings added stability to road funding.

“State government has a responsibility to maintain safe roads and bridges and the people of Michigan expect the Legislature to address this issue and meet basic infrastructure needs. I had hoped that the legislature could pass a plan with strong bipartisan support, but unfortunately few Democrats were able to put politics aside and be part of a solution. I am grateful for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who joined with my caucus to vote for a commonsense road funding plan, and I am disappointed by Democrat leaders who chose to sit out their responsibilities in favor of throwing political punches.

“I have been realistic in my expectations that ultimately a road funding plan would include compromise in order for all parties to agree. For me, long-term tax relief had to be a component of the plan. I firmly believe that we can always find ways to make state government more accountable and responsible. We are asking for more from our taxpayers in order to improve our state and it only makes sense that we return available dollars to our hardworking families.

“My Senate colleagues and I have demonstrated that we are committed to improving our roads and reforming transportation funding. The bottom line is the citizens of Michigan made it clear that road funding should be a priority of state government. The priorities of the taxpayers are the priorities of the Michigan Senate. I look forward to passage by the House and support from the governor.”

Under the Senate-passed plan, beginning in Fiscal Year 2019, $150 million in General Fund revenue would be redirected and dedicated to a newly created section of the Michigan Transportation Fund. In FY 2020, the redirected revenue would grow to $325 million and then to $600 million in FY 2021 and beyond making roads a priority for state spending.

Additional revenue would be raised through an increase in the state gas tax and diesel tax to 26.3 cents on Jan. 1, 2017. The gas and diesel tax rates would then be indexed to the rate of inflation beginning Jan. 1, 2022 in order to keep pace with the increasing costs of maintaining roads and bridges. This change in fuel tax rates is expected to generate $400 million when fully implemented.

In addition to an increase in fuel taxes, another $200 million would be generated from a 20 percent increase in registration fees for passenger vehicles and trucks effective Jan. 1, 2017.

When fully implemented, the combination of redirected funds and new revenue would result in approximately $1.2 billion for Michigan roads and bridges.

The Senate plan also presents an opportunity to control the growth of government. Senate Bill 414 creates an automatic rollback of the state income tax rate each year that General Fund revenues exceed inflation.

Each fiscal year, General Fund expenditure growth would be limited to the rate of inflation times 1.425 with the initial rollback scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2023. Economic growth over and above the designated rate would be returned to the taxpayers in the form of an income tax rate reduction.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018, changes to the Homestead Property Tax Credit will result in $200 million in tax relief for families.

Additional bills in the package also require road construction warranties. MDOT and local agencies would be required to competitively bid for most projects that exceed $100,000 and townships would be encouraged to issue Requests For Proposal for projects of a certain amount that include at least 50 percent township resources. The plan also creates the Roads Innovation Fund to hold the state accountable for road quality.

To keep pace with changes in technology, the package institutes a process and fee schedule for taxing alternative fuels and imposes an additional registration fee for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The package is comprised of Senate Bill 414 and House Bills 4730, 4376, 4737 and 4738.

For more information please visit www.fixingmiroads.com.

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Getting to Know… Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Olive Township, kicks off a “Getting to Know You” series on the Michigan Senate Republican Blog with a revealing and light-hearted interview that lets viewers in on who he is, where he’s from and what is important to him.

Among the items discussed are his first job, his favorite Pure Michigan activity and what superpower he would want.