It is an honor to write to you again as your representative in Lansing. Your input on issues in state government helps me to represent you better, so I hope you will contact me about the issues that are important to you. You can get in touch with me by phone at (517) 373-2577, by email at email@example.com, or on my website, http://rabhi.housedems.com. I will send these e-newsletters monthly to update you on legislation and community news. If you would like to unsubscribe, please email me.
I look forward to working together to move Michigan forward.
Community Discussions: Yousef and YOU
I look forward to the chance to meet many of you in person, and to discuss your priorities for our state. To that end, I will be holding open forums in Ann Arbor twice a month. My next two constituent events will be:
Saturday, March 25, at 10 a.m.
1155 Rosewood St., Ann Arbor
Monday, April 10, at 6 p.m.
Mallett’s Creek Ann Arbor District Library
3090 E. Eisenhower Parkway, Ann Arbor
Making Our Tax System Fairer
Last month, the House voted against a proposal that, in its original form, would phase out Michigan’s income tax. The original version of House Bill 4001 would have put a $680 million hole in our state budget in the first year, and that hole would have grown by an additional $400 million every year after. This would have necessitated drastic cuts in the services we all need, and that’s before we even consider where to find the additional $600 million that was committed last session for transportation. The richest 20 percent of households would have seen 65 percent of the benefit from the income tax break, while the bottom 60 percent of households would have received only 16 percent of the tax break. Hundreds of constituents wrote or called me to express their opposition to this unfair proposal. I joined the majority of my colleagues in voting “no” on this proposal.
Now that the House has set aside this jobs-killing tax proposal that would have provided yet another enormous tax cut for the super-rich, it’s time to consider real tax relief for Michigan families — restoring the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Our state’s EITC is focused on lifting working families out of poverty. The program is currently a shadow of its former self, since it was cut down from 20 percent of the federal EITC to just 6 percent in 2011.
The EITC enables working people to support themselves and their families. When the state EITC was at its former level, it lifted 22,000 families out of poverty every year. Since it was slashed, the EITC only enables about 6,800 of those families to rise out of poverty. The EITC money that families receive is quickly returned into the economy as families pay their bills and buy groceries, stimulating job creation and economic growth.
Over the last several years, our Legislature has systematically cut corporate taxes and shifted the burden onto regular families by cutting the EITC, eliminating the per-child tax deduction, and slashing the Homestead Property Tax Credit while increasing taxes on retirees. In order to fight against these destructive policies, I have co-sponsored House Bills 4341 and 4342. HB 4342 would restore the Michigan EITC to 20 percent of the federal EITC, while HB 4341 would go further and raise the Michigan EITC to 25 percent of the federal level. Either bill would be a significant improvement for hundreds of thousands of Michigan families. I hope that my fellow legislators to join me in working to pass this critically important legislation. Working people should not have to live in poverty in our state.
Standing Together as an Inclusive Community
Like many of you, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the fire at the Islamic Center of Ypsilanti. While local and federal authorities continue to investigate the motives behind the incident, it is important that we make it clear that our Muslim community members are welcome here. The loss of the Islamic Center will be a setback for a community that is already under stress. Unfortunately, reported hate crimes against minority groups, including Muslims and immigrants, have increased over the last year.
The broader Ann Arbor community values diversity and the many contributions of immigrants to our area. As your representative in the state House, I am working to promote those values in Lansing. I have co-sponsored House Resolution 18, urging Congress to pursue humane, responsive, and nondiscriminatory immigration policies. I plan to oppose House Bill 4105, the Sanctuary Policy Prohibition Act, which would strip state funding from communities where law enforcement refuses to profile and report people that they suspect of being undocumented. This bill would place undue and unfair burdens on local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal law when funding is already so limited for local government. I will continue to resist efforts by the state government to interfere in local communities that choose to pursue inclusive policies.
March is Reading Month
I am glad to have had the opportunity to share my love of reading with kids at public schools around Ann Arbor in celebration of March is Reading Month.
I read this year’s Michigan Reads book, Bubble Gum Bubble Gum, to Ms. Weaver’s first grade class at Dicken Elementary School.
The Governor’s Proposed Budget
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will advocate for a budget that works for everyone in our state. Here are some of the items to watch for in the governor’s budget as the House and Senate consider his proposal:
- Funding increase of $128 million for K-12 schools per-pupil foundation allowance.
- Funding increase of $150 million in additional per-pupil funding for at-risk K-12 students.
- Funding increase of $214.3 million for state and local roads.
- Funding increase of $11.3 million to improve staffing and services for elderly people and people with disabilities.
- Funding for “heat and eat” to bring in more federal food assistance dollars.
- Funding increase of $35 million for public universities, though still not enough to restore to 2011 levels once adjusted for inflation.
- No increase in revenue sharing, which local governments need to pay for essential services like police and firefighters.
- All community college funding would come from the School Aid Fund, which is intended for K-12 education. They are both important, and should not be forced to compete for the same pot of money.
- The transportation funding increase would fall far short of the $2.2 billion the governor’s 21st Century Infrastructure Committee estimates we need to invest in our roads.
- The majority party in the House still has not revealed its own plan. We anticipate that the House plan will be significantly different from the governor’s budget in many areas, including reductions in the areas listed above. Once the House develops its budget, it will have to reach an agreement with the Senate and the governor before a final budget is approved.
Windstorm Damage Claims Information
The windstorms earlier this month caused damage in many parts of Ann Arbor and the rest of the state. The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services has information on how to file an insurance claim, how to file a complaint against an insurance company and how to better prepare for extreme weather at www.michigan.gov/difs under the “Consumer” link. You can also call DIFS toll-free at (877) 999-6442.
Electrical Outage Service Credits
I received many calls about the prolonged power outages in the Ann Arbor area following the windstorm. I share your frustration with the delayed restoration of power, especially considering the dangerous temperatures. If your power was out for more than 5 days (120 hours), you may qualify for a bill credit. Information on bill credits is available at the Michigan Public Service Commission website. You can also find information on filing a complaint about electrical service with the MPSC by visiting its Inquiries and Complaints page, or by calling (800) 292-9555.