State Rep. Ellison Announces Committee Assignments

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
State Rep. Jim Ellison at work in the Michigan House of Representatives.

I’m honored to have been appointed to serve on the House Committees on Local Government, Tax Policy, and Families, Children and Seniors.

 

As a member of the House Local Government Committee, I look forward to helping empower our local communities by making sure more of our tax dollars make it back home.

While other states have been investing in their local communities, Michigan is the only state to have seen a reduction in revenue for local governments (without even adjusting for inflation) since 2002, and to have done so little for its major cities. In fact, the 49th ranked state, Ohio, has actually increased funding to local governments by 25 percent, meaning we’re not just last, we’re far behind every state.

As the longest-serving mayor of Royal Oak, I witnessed the impact firsthand, but it is pretty easy to see the disinvestment that has occurred when you look at recent news headlines. Detroit became the largest city in our nation’s history to go through bankruptcy. Flint, a former industrial hub, is dealing with the most severe health crisis in our state’s history, and many other communities have been taken over by Gov. Rick Snyder’s emergency financial managers.

The good news is that Detroit is improving, but the people of Flint still don’t have safe drinking water, and we need to do more to help our local communities. Residents place great trust in their local government because it provides for their most essential services: water, sewer, roads, police and fire, for example. So why isn’t the Legislature placing its trust in our communities by making sure our tax dollars make it home?

 

As a member of the House Tax Policy Committee, I will work to fix a rigged tax code that asks low- and middle-income families to contribute a dramatically larger share of their income in state and local taxes as the wealthiest in our state.

When you add up all of our state and local taxes (property, sales, excise, income, user fees, etc.), the bottom 80 percent of families, those making $102,000 a year or less, contribute 9.2 percent to 9.5 percent of their income, while the top 1 percent contribute only 5.9 percent of what they earn.

There is no reason a police officer or a small-business owner making $50,000 a year should contribute nearly twice as much of a share of their income as a billionaire, but that is how our tax system works, for now…

Low- and middle-income families have been getting hit from every angle (i.e. declining income, cuts to benefits, soaring household costs and a rigged tax code), and they are fed up because they don’t see anyone looking out for them. They need a break, and everyone in our state needs to do their part.

 

As a member of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee, I will fight to make sure state departments are held accountable and get back to serving Michigan families.

While most economic indicators have improved since the Great Recession, many Michigan families have not seen their household income rise and are still struggling to make ends meet. Gov. Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature are quick to tout Michigan’s healthy Rainy Day Fund. What they won’t tell you is that we acquired those funds, in part, by reducing the level of service we provide to Michigan families, children and seniors. If you’ve tried reaching a real person at a state department, you know this is very difficult to do and causes a great deal of confusion and stress.

One glaring example is how the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, in an effort to cut costs, replaced employees with an automated system, which falsely accused residents of unemployment insurance fraud and seized $54 billion worth of their wages. We hear a lot about the health of our state’s Rainy Day Fund, but how about the level of service we’re providing to families who have fallen under hard times? Some of these residents have had to file for bankruptcy as a result of their wages being wrongfully seized by the state. Let’s get back to providing good service and make these residents whole using our Rainy Day Fund, which was built, in part, by crippling our state’s customer service, which caused this hardship in the first place.