LANSING — State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) recognized Gov. Rick Snyder today for introducing a budget proposal that mirrors House Democrat priorities by increasing school funding and bringing limited tax relief to our citizens. However, Driskell cautioned that properly funded schools and tax fairness are priorities that should be reflected in the budget annually, not one-time gimmicks used only during election years.
“A historic tax shift onto our citizens was implemented by the governor and House Republicans in 2011. This proposed budget is a small step in the right direction, but it shouldn’t have taken until the year he’s up for re-election to deliver it,” Driskell said. “Michigan public schools are struggling due to a 16 percent decrease in per-pupil funding since 2004. More than 50 school districts around the state are in deficit, and several schools in my district are really struggling financially. This is not a school mismanagement issue, this is a disinvestment in our number one economic driver, the education of our kids.”
The governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-15 recommends restoring $100 in per-student school funding. However, that increase would still leave Michigan schools far below per-pupil spending levels before Gov. Snyder took office. In 2011, the governor and Republican-led Legislature cut per-pupil funding — the portion of school funding that actually reaches classrooms — by $470. In subsequent years, per-pupil spending was increased only modestly, and it now remains an average of $440 below per-pupil funding in 2010. The governor’s proposal restores less than 25 percent of the money they’ve cut from our schools, still leaving schools at a massive deficit. The governor’s budget proposal continues to short-change Michigan’s children by extending school funding cuts that have amounted to $3 billion since he took office.
“In order for our kids to succeed, they need financially viable public schools. The level of funding they received the last three years has left them in a very challenged position,” Driskell said. “I’ll continue working to ensure our schools get necessary funding so that our kids in Washtenaw County and across Michigan have a better opportunity for success.”
The governor’s budget proposal also calls for restoring the Homestead Property Tax Credit to families earning between $50,000-$60,000 annually. Shortly after taking office in 2011, Snyder called for sweeping tax code changes that resulted in 400,000 Michigan families losing their Homestead Property Tax Credit. Rep. Driskell co-sponsored House Bill 4565, which would restore the tax credit to families earning up to $60,000, but the bill has languished in the House Committee on Tax Policy. On Jan. 22, House Democrats asked that the bill be discharged from committee and brought to the House floor for an up-or-down vote, but House Republicans blocked that request.
“It’s been difficult for a lot of families to get by since those tax changes were enacted, and I’m glad the governor saw the need to reverse some of it,” Driskell said. “I wish Republicans in the Legislature had shared that view, but perhaps they’re ready to act now that the governor endorses this approach. The tax shift in 2011 increased the income tax burden on our citizens 31 percent on average, so this is just a drop in the bucket.”