2016 accomplishments – First 6 months

As June comes to a close, it’s a great time to look back at the achievements we’ve made so far in 2016.

For starters, let’s remember how far we’ve come. Under Republican leadership, Michigan has added more than 450,000 private sector jobs and our state unemployment rate dropped below the national average for the first time since August 2000.

In fact, at 4.7 percent, Michigan’s unemployment rate has been cut in half since January 2011, is at its lowest rate in 15 years, and is more than 10 points lower than it was in June 2009.

It’s no surprise then, that the PEW Charitable Trusts declared Michigan as “maybe the biggest success story” in the nation.

Let’s look at what we’ve accomplished in the first six months of 2016…

For the sixth year in the row, the Senate Republicans passed a fiscally responsible budget months ahead of schedule that maintains our positive momentum, ensures we live within our means and continues our unwavering support of public education.

We have always led the fight for greater funding for our local schools and more choice in education.

In fact, Michigan is investing more this year on K-12 education than ever in state history. The finalized Fiscal Year 2017 budget directs more than $14 billion to education — increasing support by more than $260 million and paying down more than $1 billion in school retirement costs, which will help schools put additional dollars into the classroom.

Senate Republicans acted promptly to the Flint water crisis and appropriated more than $211 million in much needed emergency relief to address the immediate health needs of the people of Flint, as well as putting another $74.6 million in the new budget.

We believe in the sanctity of life. It’s a tragedy when a child dies, and no one should profit from the trafficking of human fetal remains. We put an end to that horrific practice in 2016 with the signing of Senate Bills 564 and 565.

In 2016, we stood up for our heroes — securing more funding to assist homeless veterans and create a new Veterans Home Ombudsman to ensure our veterans receive the proper care they earned serving our nation.

We also helped encourage more parents to take their children outdoors, by guaranteeing free access to state boating access sites and certain state parks during the state’s two free fishing weekends.

While we accomplished much already in 2016, the Michigan Senate Republicans remain committed to working tirelessly to build upon these successes and continue to improve our state for future generations.

Senate finalizes FY 2017 state budget

In 2011, Michigan produced a balanced budget months ahead of schedule. At the time, it was virtually unprecedented. Today, it is the norm.

On June 2, the Legislature finalized the state’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget well ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline — for the sixth year in a row. The budget plan — once again — builds upon the economic and financial foundation that the Michigan Senate Republicans established in 2011 — and have strengthened since then — to make Michigan the best place to live and work.

It is a responsible and balanced budget that makes further investments in priority areas, such as education, public safety and economic development. It also keeps government spending in line and does not burden hardworking families with new taxes.

We have included a more than $260 million increase for K-12 schools — amounting in a foundation allowance increase of $60- to $120-per-pupil — while also paying down more than $1 billion in school retirement costs to help put additional resources into the classroom. An additional $39 million has been directed to our state universities.

The budget will also expand the successful Healthy Kids Dental program to cover all Michigan residents under the age of 21, increase funding to further support private foster care agencies and dedicate funding to help homeless veterans.

To help keep our state and communities safe, we have provided funding to hire 65 new state police troopers and expand the Secure Cities program to cover six more communities.

More jobs and better jobs are always goals. As our economy continues to grow, the budget plan adds more than $5 million to the Skilled Trades Training Fund to help job providers train workers for in-demand career opportunities.

The Fiscal Year 2017 budget is another fiscally responsible plan that helps meet our highest priorities. It supports vital services, invests in the next generation, makes state government more efficient, and continues our commitment to making Michigan more attractive to job creators and top talent.

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Highlighting the governor’s budget proposal

Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday addressed a joint-hearing of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to unveil his proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

The governor’s budget plan reflects many Senate Republican priorities that have and continue to foster economic growth and prosperity for hardworking Michigan families.

Michigan’s economy continues to grow, and that has created a budget surplus. The governor called for additional investments into priority areas, including education, public health and safety, and infrastructure.

Senate Republicans have worked to invest more than $1 billion in increased state funding toward the education of our children over the past five years, and we have worked to expand programs that train and prepare students through career and technical education. We look forward to continuing those efforts to ensure Michigan’s students receive a quality education that prepares them for a future of success.

We have also taken seriously the responsibility of the health and safety of residents. In that effort, the governor’s budget proposed expanding the highly successful Healthy Kids Dental program to include all 83 counties and more than 826,000 children. The proposed hiring of 85 new Michigan State Police Troopers and 350 corrections officers will also help to keep our communities safe.

Michigan’s aging infrastructure needs improvement, and the governor proposed $165 million to improve infrastructure throughout the state. Senate Republicans are eager to work with the governor’s administration and legislative colleagues to find a way to address this growing concern.

The governor also proposed spending additional money for the city of Flint for its ongoing water issues and to help Detroit Public Schools with growing debt obligations.

We must find solutions that not only resolve the issues facing the people of Flint, but for all of Michigan. Ending the Flint water emergency is a top priority, and that is why the governor’s budget plan includes both immediate and long-term support for Flint and the residents impacted by the water crisis.

The governor’s proposed solution for how to deal with the Detroit Public School district’s financial problems is encouraging, and Senate Republicans pledge to continue to work on how best to reform the district so that its 47,000 children receive the quality education they deserve.

The governor’s budget proposal is a great starting point, and Senate Republicans, led by our appropriations committee members and subcommittee chairs, will begin the collaborative process to develop Michigan’s next state budget. Our caucus will proceed deliberatively and consider both the governor’s and House’s priorities, in addition to our own, and will work to produce another sound budget.

As has become the norm in our state, Senate Republicans look forward to approving the new budget well ahead of schedule to provide surety for local governments and school districts as they plan their own budgets, and to help continue our state’s turnaround.

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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