LANSING – At a Capitol press conference today House Democrats said that the Governor and Republican majority made 2011 one of the worst years for Michigan residents by not only refusing to address critical needs that would help seniors, families and unemployed workers, but rather by attacking them. Instead of focusing on job creation, the Governor and Republican lawmakers used 2011 to pass legislation that hurt Michigan residents by raising taxes, targeting unemployed workers, and endangering our students by gutting education funding.

“The Republican majority simply refused to see that their policies are hurting Michigan seniors, families and unemployed workers trying to find new jobs,” said House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (Mt. Morris Township). “These are not happy days for most working Michigan families. They don’t get a break from trying to find a job, feed their family and keep the heat on in their homes. Taxes are going up, services are being slashed and Republicans have pushed through policies that take money away from seniors living on fixed incomes and make it harder for out of work residents to make ends meet while they look for work in this very tough economy.”

The harmful agenda continued this week when the majority party approved worker compensation and unemployment insurance legislation that will make it more difficult for workers to qualify for both. And education took another blow when Republican’s chose not to return over $400 million to classrooms, but instead to open the state to more charter schools ignoring that 75% of current charters are in the bottom half of performance for all schools across the state. To add insult to injury, Republicans also acted to slash funding for the program to help low-income residents with their winter heating bills, despite there being plenty of money in the bank for this program. This decision will leave thousands of families without help and facing utility shut-offs this winter.

“This has been a frustrating year because the Republicans have failed to create jobs, take care of our senior citizens, and adequately fund our education system to prepare our children for the future,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal (Battle Creek). “Democrats were ready with small business, infrastructure and new technology proposals that would have helped employers and put people back to work but the Republican majority refused to listen to common sense proposals. Democrats won’t stop fighting to put seniors, families, and workers first by passing legislation that will meet their needs.”

Republican policies that have benefitted big corporations and their wealthy owners and stacked the deck against Michigan workers and families include those that:

  • Raided the state’s School Aid Fund, which had a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars, forcing local school districts to lay off employees, increase class sizes, close buildings, and cut busing, sports, and many other programs in order to subsidize an 83 percent tax break for corporations which fails to guarantee the creation of a single new job.

  • Taxed seniors’ pensions, which they have worked hard for all their lives and planned their retirements around.

  • Moved thousands of Michigan’s neediest adults and thousands more children off of state aid, cut off food assistance to thousands of struggling families and unemployed workers by enacting an assets test, and eliminated the Engler-era successful home heating assistance and weatherization program just as the first snows fell.

  • Decimated local control by enacting an Emergency Financial Manager law—an anti-democracy law that should be repealed. This law allows the Governor to appoint individuals with broad powers to dissolve democratically- elected local governments and school boards and stick cash-strapped cities with the bill.

  • Drastically reduced the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which will hurt 800,000 working families who rely on it to remain self-sufficient and take millions of dollars out of our local economies.

  • Endangered private sector safety nets by ending tax credits for donations to food banks and other nonprofits at a time when more and more residents, especially those from working families with children, are turning to them for help.

  • Vilified unemployed workers by becoming the first state in the nation to reduce the amount of time Michigan workers can collect unemployment from 26 to 20 weeks while asserting that unemployed workers don’t actually want jobs.

  • Threatened our communities and neighborhoods by cutting funding that local governments need to keep our police and firefighters on the street.

  • Make changes to the No-Fault Auto Insurance Law to slash medical benefits and homecare services, reduce payments to hospitals and doctors, and potentially push victims to Medicaid for care when insurance coverage runs out. On top of that, the Republican majority included a $50,000 appropriation to prevent a voter referendum because they know voters have rejected these same changes twice before!

  • Slashed funding to community colleges and universities by 15 percent, putting job training and a college degree further out of reach for middle-class families and displaced workers.

  • Voted to remove the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Michigan, although little oversight or quality control is included and despite the fact that three of four existing Charters are failing. A flood of new schools siphoning off money from existing schools threatens our whole K-12 system.