Gilda Z. Jacobs: Michigan League for Public Policy launches people-driven agenda

January 31, 2019 10:37 am

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

Michigan needs a major tune-up. That’s why on Thursday, the Michigan League for Public Policy is announcing “The Owner’s Manual for Michigan”, a clear and comprehensive public policy plan to help the state’s leaders on the road ahead.  

It’s usually pretty obvious when our vehicles need work. The beeping alarms and blinking lights on our dashboards. The squeaking of bad brakes. The dry, scratching sound as our car fails to turn over. Or worse yet, the disappointing silence of a vehicle that is dead.

But how do we know if our state is running well? The League has been around since 1912 — almost as long as the automobile itself — and we have always taken the same approach to improving public policy: Analyze the data and listen to the people who are being impacted.

So when it came time to put together a plan to improve people’s lives through better public policy, we wanted to make sure that Michigan residents were again at the center of it. We drove around the state to talk with hundreds of Michigan residents about what matters to them and what policy changes they want to see.

Here’s what we found out. While it’s improving, Michigan’s economic engine is still not firing on all cylinders and it’s definitely not working for all people. There are a lot of policy areas that are rundown, broken and in need of significant repair. And in nearly every issue area, there are drastic inequities by race and ethnicity, income and geography.

Just like the real vehicles we all depend on, it takes a lot of components and tools to make our state go, and here are the policy recommendations we developed to get all Michigan residents on the road to prosperity and security.

To enable all students to get a better education, we want to improve child care access and affordability and help identify learning and developmental delays. The state needs to increase school funding for schools with high numbers of students living in poverty or located in high-poverty communities. Policymakers also need to address the state’s low literacy rate and how the new third-grade reading law will impact students and parents.

To help workers strengthen their skills and take care of their families, Michigan needs to make college more affordable for all and better support adult education and training opportunities and funding. The state also needs to pass policies that better protect workers’ paychecks and support their needs, including making sure they are paid for overtime, and providing fair wages, sick time and notice of work schedule changes. Michigan also needs to invest in better support for justice-involved individuals when they return home.

The Owner’s Manual outlines ways to help working families thrive, including increasing and expanding the state Earned Income Tax Credit, making child care more affordable and available, including during nontraditional hours, and ensuring that healthy food and safe housing are readily accessible.

The plan also makes recommendations to improve the overall health of our residents and our communities, including curbing the severe threats of lead and PFAS, ensuring access to high-quality, affordable health care, and supporting Michigan’s vibrant immigrant population and their contributions to our state.

Many of these issues are getting traction on both sides of the aisle right now, and we hope to build on that momentum to make these improvements a reality.

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

We also know that any public policy discussion in Lansing comes down to cost, so we have outlined some tangible recommendations for increasing state revenues to pay for these important priorities, including passing a graduated income tax, expanding the sales tax to services, and eliminating the harmful triggered income tax rate cut and other tax cuts that disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers and businesses.

You and the almost 10 million people who call Michigan home are and will always be the real owners of this great state. And it’s time that our public policies reflect that.

If we’re going to fix our state and pave the way for everyone, then residents, advocates and elected officials are going to need to pop the hood, roll up our sleeves and work together to get things running smoothly. Driven by you and geared toward lawmakers, The Owner’s Manual for Michigan will help guide our state in the right direction.

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Gilda Z. Jacobs
Gilda Z. Jacobs

Gilda Z. Jacobs has dedicated her life to helping others, working as an educator, helping provide housing for people with disabilities, serving in state and local government for 30 years, including 12 in the Michigan Legislature, and currently leading the Michigan League for Public Policy as President and CEO.