A year in review: 2015

With the New Year nearly upon us, we reflect upon the year that was. The achievements the Michigan Senate Republicans made in 2015 will continue moving Michigan forward on the road to recovery.

The Senate Republicans led the way in cultivating a positive environment for job creation and economic growth. As a result, Michigan has added more than 420,000 private sector jobs in five years and our state unemployment rate dropped below the national average for the first time since more than 15 years.

For the fifth consecutive year, Senate Republicans passed a fiscally responsible budget that paid down debt, improved state government efficiency and effectiveness, protected our communities and helped attract job creators to Michigan.

Senate Republican kept education as a top priority — increasing support for all levels of education. State spending on K-12 education has gone up more than a billion dollars over the last five years, and Michigan is now spending more on K-12 education than ever in state history.

Residents said that they wanted the roads fixed, so Senate Republicans put nearly $500 million into the roads this year and finally addressed Michigan’s long-term road funding problem.

Once fully implemented, Michigan’s comprehensive, long-term road-funding plan will put $1.2 billion — including $600 million in new revenue and reprioritizing $600 million in existing revenue — into fixing our crumbling roads and bridges every year.

To ensure Michigan drivers and taxpayers are both protected, Senate Republicans demanded that road work is warrantied to last and limited the growth of government by capping our state’s income tax. The income tax will automatically be reduced each General Fund growth exceeds the rate of inflation — putting money directly back in the pockets of Michigan families.

Senate Republicans accomplished much in 2015 to improve our state, and our commitment to our residents is to continue working tirelessly to build upon our accomplishments.

Free skiing for 4th- and 5th-graders!

Michigan fourth- and fifth-graders have the opportunity to get three free lift tickets to 30 participating Michigan ski areas under a cool program.

The “Cold is Cool” Fourth & Fifth Grade Ski & Ride Passport initiative is about improving the health of the Michigan children and getting them excited about being active in Michigan’s winter wonderland.

It is a great chance to introduce young kids to new experiences and activities or help foster a new interest in the enjoyment of Michigan winters to last a lifetime.

For fourth- and fifth-graders to use the free lift or trail passes, a paying adult must accompany them. Up to two kids can ski free with each paying adult. Although the skiing is free, MSIA charges a $20 printing and shipping fee for each passport ordered.

The passport also includes additional discounts on the slopes and in Michigan ski shops.

Residents can download an interactive application form at www.goskimichigan.com. Click on “Cold is Cool – 4th and 5th Graders Ski Free!”

The site also includes details on other money-saving programs, ski equipment and Michigan lodging. One link offers updated information on ski and snow conditions and amenities at Michigan resorts.

Get out and enjoy some Pure Michigan skiing!

2015 Senate Republican Accomplishments

The Michigan Senate Republicans put in a solid year of hard work in 2015, and they have a lot to show for it as the year comes to a close.

From education, the economy and justice to balancing the budget and protecting our natural resources, Senate Republicans made great strides on many issues over the last year. The policies they put in place in 2015 have had a far-reaching impact on improving our state and continuing Michigan’s renewal.

The great results speak for themselves. For the first time since August 2000, unemployment in Michigan dipped below the national average! More people are working and more jobs are being created.

So as the year draws to a close, we look back on the Top 10 accomplishments of Michigan Senate Republicans during 2015:

Blog - 2015 MISenate Top 10

A Pure Michigan Christmas starts with a Michigan-grown Christmas tree

It’s no mystery that Michigan is known for its natural beauty. From rolling sand dunes to clear, blue Great Lakes water to acres of lush forest areas, Michigan is home to some of the most beautiful natural resources in the nation.

While everyone can enjoy the state’s outdoors for recreation, it is also a driver of our economy. Most people know about the impact our lakes and minerals have on Michigan’s economy, yet our state is home to another booming natural industry — Christmas tree production.

Michigan is the third largest producer of real Christmas trees in the U.S., producing roughly three million trees annually and an annual wholesale harvest that exceeds $40 million.

There are about 700 Christmas tree farms in the state, and many of these farms are locally owned and operated — providing jobs in their communities.

When you purchase a Michigan-grown Christmas tree, you are not only benefitting the local economy, but also the environment. When a tree is harvested, one to three seedlings are planted in its place. Plus, natural-cut trees are easily recyclable and can be used for woodchips or mulch.

So this year, visit your local Christmas tree farm and help make this year a true Pure Michigan Christmas.

For a location to choose and cut your own Christmas tree or buy a pre-cut tree, visit www.mcta.org.

Brandenburg Business: Senator works hard, plays hard

Blog - BrandenburgIn this series of one-of-a-kind interviews, the Michigan Republican Senate Blog will be taking a nonpolitical glimpse into the lives of our members — outside of public office.

If you had to use one word to describe Jack Brandenburg it would be industrious. Since he was a young man, Jack has always been focused on what it takes to get the job done. And, although he has had success, it has never been easy and has never been achieved without a lot of hard work. Jack set his goals high and if he failed, he picked himself up and tried again — that’s the philosophy that he lives his life by.

Jack was born and raised in Canton, Ohio and is the son of Donna and Murray Brandenburg. He has one sister, Debbie Bechton. Senator Brandenburg enjoyed sports as a child and did very well in the classroom. He credits his parents for setting a strong example in teaching him the importance of getting a good education and working hard to achieve his goals. Jack credits his work ethic to his dad, who worked 42 years for the Pepsi-Cola Company before retiring.

“My parents recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary,” Brandenburg said. “They both still play golf and are very athletic. I am very, very grateful to be a part of their lives. My mom and dad were one helluva pair of role models for my sister and me. A seven day work week was routine for my dad. It was beneficial for me to see that kind of work ethic up close at such a young age.

“My mom was a doctor’s assistant and she always stressed the importance of a dollar to my sister and me. Looking back, I know there were times where my parents lived week-to-week. However, my sister and I never lacked for anything. It was a great way to grow up.”

Brandenburg remembers always having some kind of part-time job to make money. He recalls his days as a caddy, cutting grass, being a bartender and driving Pepsi-Cola trucks.

“My dad, to this day, still tells people that I was the only guy on the block who was never broke,” Jack laughs. “That is the truth. My parents taught me many things, but first and foremost was to be honest and work hard. They always said that if you were good at those two things, good things in life will happen for you. They were 100 percent right.”

Good things were right around the corner for Brandenburg. After earning a degree in Business Administration from Ashland University, he met and married his wife of 37 years, Karen Linenger, and together the couple have four children: Bryan, Rhett, John, and Paige. They have also been blessed with their first grandchild, a boy named Abel.

It was not long after Jack and Karen met, that the future senator decided it was time to start his own business. He and Karen started Blue Water Industrial Supply, Inc. literally out of the trunk of Jack’s car. The company now does business with railroads across the Midwest and into the South.

“I remember after college moving to Detroit and I only knew one person and he moved to Chicago a month later,” Brandenburg said. “I worked really hard to get a good customer base and was making some good money, but it was for someone else. I thought it was best for me and my family that I be my own boss. After, that I never looked back and the rest is history.”

In addition to the senator’s personal success, Jack and Karen raised their children in Harrison Township, where the entire family has been active in the community. Each of their four children graduated from L’anse Creuse High School, but it was a small school in Hamtramck, St. Florian High School, that Jack knew needed some help.

“The reason they needed help was because they could not pay for football coaches — they just could not afford it. They needed help,” Brandenburg said. “My friend, Ed Belcrest, asked me to help and I said yes, but I wanted to talk to the players first. There were 23 players on the team and they were just great kids.

“I coached three years there and it was worth my time to do it for free. All of these guys ended up successful. Some are in law enforcement, teaching and in business. To those guys I coached at St. Florian, I have this to say, ‘Gentleman, it was my pleasure!’

“As with the birth of my first son, Bryan, my life changed. I feel my life is changing once more, with the birth of my grandson Abel. I really want to teach him about all the things I have learned along the way in life, not just in sports, business or politics. Although, I must concede, there is a lot to be learned from all three.

“I have always said that the future is a mist, because it most certainly is. Another saying that I am partial of is this: work hard, play hard. I just turned 64 and I am going to follow my advice!”

A Day in the Life with Sen. John Proos

In the latest edition of the “A Day in the Life” series, Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, gives residents a glimpse into the life of a Michigan state senator.

The Michigan Senate Republican Blog gave the senator a video camera for a day to record the happenings of a session day — from getting ready at 6:30 a.m. to returning home at 9:30 p.m.

Ensuring everyone has a happy and safe holiday season

Every two minutes, a person in America is injured in a drunk driving accident.

Every day in America, another 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.

In 2014, about 36 percent of the total fatal crashes in Michigan involved alcohol and/or drugs.

It is important to remember that behind every statistic is a family dealing with the loss of a loved one.

December is Impaired Driving Prevention Month. It is a time to raise awareness about the often tragic consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

There are high numbers of fatalities and severe injuries in Michigan that are the result of alcohol-related crashes. In roughly 30 percent of all crashes in Michigan, the driver of the vehicle had been drinking. During the holidays, the number of drivers on the road who have consumed alcohol is even higher than normal.

That is why the Senate Republicans are encouraging all Michigan residents to take a few proactive steps to help ensure this holiday season is a safe one.

Here are some basic safety tips when hosting a Christmas party:
• Ensure your guests have a designated sober driver before your party starts or reserve a cab in advance;
• Never serve alcohol to minors;
• Offer non-alcoholic drink options to guests, like water, juice and pop;
• Serve plenty of food; and
• Stop serving alcohol an hour or two before the party ends.

Hosting a Christmas party can be fun, but it comes with responsibility for the safety of your guests.

Set the tone early that no one is going to be driving home drunk. Pay attention to your guests and their alcohol consumption. If someone seems to have had too much to drink, arrange alternate transportation home.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. Drink responsibly, and if you or your friends have too much to drive, don’t get behind the wheel.

Struggling with heating bills? Help may be available

With winter just around the corner, the Michigan Senate Republicans want to remind families struggling with heating bills that help may be available.

First, if you are unable to pay your bills, please contact the utility company ASAP and explain the situation. Being proactive could save your life by ensuring the heat stays on.

The Winter Protection Plan safeguards seniors and low-income gas and electric customers from service shutoffs and high utility bills from Nov. 1 to March 31. It allows eligible customers to avoid shutoffs while paying nothing or just a small percentage of their annual bill during the protection period. To apply, residents should contact their natural gas or utility company.

It is important to remember that this is a deferment plan, not a financial assistance program. It is meant to ease the burden of high utility bills in the winter. However, immediate help may be available if you are facing conditions of extreme hardship or emergency.

The State Emergency Relief Program offers financial assistance for low-income residents who are normally able to make ends meet but may need help due to an unexpected emergency. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance.

The site includes details on the Weatherization Assistance Program and Home Heating Credit.

In addition, many organizations have programs to help ensure that Michigan residents will not have to worry about how they are going to keep their families warm this winter.

The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) is a leading provider of utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. Since its inception in 1985, THAW has distributed more than $160 million in assistance to more than 223,000 Michigan households. For more information, visit www.thawfund.org.