GRAND RAPIDS — State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) hosted the Grand Rapids stop of the Michigan House Democrats’ Listening Tour on Monday at the Grand Rapids Public Schools administration building. The event was held to give middle-class families a chance to say how they’ve been impacted by Republican tax increases and education cuts in Michigan. The Listening Tour event was one of several House Democrats’ Listening Tour stops being held across the state. Joining Brinks at the event were state Reps. Collene Lamonte (D-Montague), Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) and Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon).

“The voices of middle-class families, students and seniors have been shut out of the state Capitol. It’s time for their priorities to be heard,” Brinks said. “They’re telling us that they want better funding for schools and fairer taxes, and the Michigan House Democrats share those priorities.”

Gov. Rick Snyder claimed Michigan is on the right track when he gave his State of the State address. House Republicans also offered an “Action Plan” that tries to convince citizens of their intention to work for the people. However, said Lamonte, “Our kids and our families are falling further behind under Republican-backed policies that slashed school funding and middle-class tax credits and deductions. We were told we had to make these sacrifices to create jobs. Michigan’s middle-class families have sacrificed, but the jobs still aren’t here.”

In response, House Democrats announced they would be conducting town hall-style events where average working Michiganders could express how two years of misguided policies have hurt them. Residents can also go to for information and to speak out. Taxes on seniors and families have increased, school funding has seen a massive disinvestment, unemployment remains stubbornly high and women are being denied access to legal health care.

“In the past two years, Republicans created several laws that harm students, raise taxes on middle-class families and make it more difficult for women to access health care,” Hovey-Wright said. “People told us this is wrong for Michigan, and we heard them. That’s why we’re working to undo the damage that has been done.”

For the last two years, Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative Republicans have ignored the will of Michiganders. In the last legislative session, the majority enacted laws that are out of touch with what middle-class families want. Even after the 2012 election, when voters soundly rejected those policies, more divisive and harmful bills were passed during the lame duck session: personal property tax reform, which shifts the tax burden from corporations to local communities; a reprise of the emergency financial manager law, which voters repealed at the polls; and a so-called “right-to-work” package, which attacks collective bargaining rights and will lower wages across the state. When people came to Lansing to express their outrage, they were forcibly removed from the Capitol and shut out of the legislative process.

“Shutting people out of the legislative process runs contrary to what a democracy is supposed to be all about,” Dillon said. “The people of Michigan want to be heard, and we listened. We’re working to make the policies coming out of Lansing reflect the priorities of Michiganders, not corporate special interests.”