Gilda Z. Jacobs: Let lawmakers know this summer about policies that help working families

July 2, 2019 5:55 am

Flags at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island | Susan J. Demas

The band strikes up and the tiny flags start waving. Candy flies and kids swarm to grab all they can, their hands still sticky from the red, white and blue popsicles they recently inhaled. Grandparents sip lemonade and keep their eye out for the hot dog stand. Local lawmakers mill through the crowd, handing out candy and listening intently to the needs of their constituents.  

July Fourth. It’s the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting.

But like a Rockwell painting, this moment is aspirational and not entirely grounded in reality. 

The easy-to-access lawmaker, especially, is the stuff of the Rockwellian mythology. I’m not knocking legislators — I was one for 12 years — but they have a lot of folks to represent and a lot of issues to tackle. 

Expecting them to make it out to every sack race and neighborhood cookout is not exactly reasonable, but expecting them to listen to us when we speak is imperative.

It’s up to us to make our voices heard, especially during these summer months when lawmakers have left the Capitol and are headed home to be with their constituents. And not just the constituents who own corporations and lakefront villas. They need to hear from all of us. 

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

I’m not going to get into my disappointment that lawmakers left for vacation after passing some empty budget bills. I’ve already addressed that here

I’ll just repeat my refrain that once these legislators begin talking to you and the rest of the folks they represent, they’ll hear that the people in their districts will benefit from investments and revenue, not tax cuts for the wealthy.

When they really listen, they’ll hear that President Trump’s tax cuts didn’t do much to help the middle class and working families. They’ll hear that people were disappointed when the Michigan Legislature thwarted minimum wage and sick leave proposals. They’ll hear that child care and housing costs are causing many to make dangerous household budget trade-offs, sacrificing their health and well-being to make monthly utility, mortgage or car payments. 

And we hope they’ll hear about the plans to improve conditions for working families. Lawmakers would be wise to support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plans to increase the gas tax — coupled with an increase to the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

This is the best and most equitable way to increase revenue, fix our roads and bridges, and invest in our schools, public safety and essential state services. Boosting the EITC would give working Michiganders a better chance to make ends meet and put money back into their pockets and local economies.

Your lawmakers in Washington need to hear from you, too, especially about an exciting new plan for working families that U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) recently introduced. The Working Families Tax Relief Act will help 3,450,000 Michiganders, including 1,475,000 children, in part by expanding the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. 

Friends, we’re never going to have a Norman Rockwell summer. But we can still spend time making connections in our communities, supporting each other and maybe eating a few popsicles.

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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. She is the Michigan League for Public Policy's former President and CEO.