As an organization that has been working to improve public policy for more than a century, we certainly have to adapt with the times.
From the Great Depression to the Great Recession, the influenza pandemic of 1918 to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 … 2021 … and now 2022, amidst our toughest of times, the League has strived to be a voice in harnessing public policy as the greatest way to do the most good.
And while the specifics of that work have evolved over time, there’s been a common thread throughout our history and our advocacy: speaking up for the Michigan kids, workers and families who are struggling the most, and who are most often hit the hardest by a universal crisis.
That is especially true in our state budget advocacy. It’s a big bucket of our work every year, and while our priorities are certainly impacted by the political, fiscal and economic climates — and the potential opportunities — of a given fiscal year, there are a few constants year after year.
We often talk about the budget as a values statement for our elected officials. That’s why one of the League’s annual state budget priorities has been calling on policymakers to address the racial, ethnic and social justice impact of state budget and tax decisions. This is more important than ever to support Michiganders who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Equity is achieved, in part, by targeting investments to support Michiganders, schools and communities with the greatest needs, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal stands to do that in a number of ways.
Whitmer continues to push for a substantial increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a bipartisan priority that gives more money back to individuals and families with lower incomes, lifting more workers and kids out of poverty.
The governor also is working to address poverty and support children by increasing cash assistance payments $100 per-month, per-child age 5 and under to assist families with lower incomes with the added challenges — and importance — of caring for young children.
As part of a major increase in school funding, the governor continues to advocate for additional funding for students who are economically disadvantaged, have special needs or are learning English, moving Michigan closer to a true weighted school funding formula and a more equitable funding system. The budget proposal also will help address the threat of lead by replacing water pipes, prioritizing economically disadvantaged communities, and offering grants directly to households to help them replace their plumbing.
The budget provides funding for the successful Michigan Reconnect program designed to help workers making lower wages pursue a college education or skilled trade. The governor is also pushing for hero pay for a number of professions that have been on the frontlines and vital to all of our well-being during the pandemic, such as first responders, grocery store workers and bus drivers.
Even the governor’s proposal to invest money in the rainy day fund is done with the state’s greatest needs in mind, using today’s surplus to help weather future storms and preempt drastic cuts down the road.
The budget recommendation uses one-time funds effectively and efficiently, making sound one-time investments in the areas of greatest need, instead of broad tax cuts that will do nothing to boost the economy and will only hurt our bottom line down the road. The governor has managed to pair historic funding increases with future-forward thinking and investments, which stand in sharp contrast to possible widespread tax cuts that would repeat past mistakes at the expense of Michigan’s future.
Now that the governor has presented her budget proposal, the Legislature begins their work on their budget bills. As they do, we urge legislators to uphold the same commitment to sound, targeted investments as the governor and focus on doing more for our fellow Michiganders who are barely getting by.
Increasing Michigan’s EITC, targeting school funding to the schools and students who need it most, boosting cash assistance for families with young kids, and improving water infrastructure are all investments to promote equity and help counter the pandemic.
We hope you will join the League in advocating for these proposals and ensuring our leaders are prioritizing the most pressing needs of our kids, our residents and our communities.
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