New poll: Legislature should focus on reducing cost of living and fully funding education

By: - December 15, 2022 9:01 am

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Although a long list of priorities await lawmakers in Lansing, a new poll indicates residents want the focus to be on the economy and education.

The poll, conducted by EPIC-MRA on behalf of the national progressive policy group State Innovation Exchange (SiX), solicited opinions on a variety of issues that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the new Democratic-controlled Legislature will face in January when they return to Lansing.

“It will be a new year and new legislative majorities in Lansing, but the people of Michigan have the same strong desire for fixing problems like poor roads, medications that are way too expensive, and underfunded schools,” said Bernie Porn, president of EPIC-MRA. “Clearly, Michiganders want Gov. Whitmer and lawmakers to get to work as soon as possible in addressing these priorities when the new legislative session begins in January.”

Among the top priorities identified in the survey, almost one-third (31%) said that improving the state’s economy and reducing the high cost of living should be the main focus, while one in five (20%) said it should be improving the quality of, and funding for, education.

Other top answers include: Reducing the cost of quality, affordable health care (14%) and upgrading infrastructure, roads, bridges, dams, drinking water and wastewater treatment systems (12%).

Clearly, Michiganders want Gov. Whitmer and lawmakers to get to work as soon as possible in addressing these priorities when the new legislative session begins in January.

– Bernie Porn, president of EPIC-MRA

The statewide survey included live interviews of 600 active and likely November 2024 voters between Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 The sample was made up of 65% cell phones with a margin of error of  +/- 4%.

When asked how lawmakers should address the issues, the survey revealed much stronger majorities.

Support for “additional state funding to provide assistance to the needs of different children, especially those in special education, learning English, living in poverty, or living in isolated, rural areas” came from 87% of respondents.

Meanwhile, 84% said state officials should use most of the nearly $7 billion in surplus state budget funds to “provide additional funding for road repairs, needed improvements to older school buildings, and water infrastructure upgrades.”

Respondents also indicated strong support for increased corporate responsibility when it came to issues like pollution and taxes:

  • 97% support “requiring polluters to pay to cleanup bodies of water and sites they contaminate, whether it’s used for drinking or not.”
  • 80% support “creating a drug affordability board in Michigan that would decide the appropriate prices for prescription drugs and medications.”
  • 78% support “enactment of laws that would regulate how much profit companies and utilities can make and require them to reduce prices for what many consider to be necessities of life, like prescription medications, drinking water, and gasoline.”
  • 55% support “a proposal to make changes to state law that would eliminate deductions, credits, and other tax breaks used mostly by corporations and wealthy individuals under current state law to reduce their state tax payments.”

“The people of Michigan are ready for the governor and Legislature to take on those responsible for underfunding our schools and communities, while driving up prices and piling up profits,” said Tom Lenard, SiX Michigan State Director. “Not only can they start to reverse the harm done over decades, they can begin to create a state that allows every worker to thrive, every student succeed, and every neighborhood prosper.”

The survey also showed clear support for state government to provide resources and policies that will benefit families. 

There’s 89% support for Whitmer and Legislature providing resources for “maternal and infant health,” while 81% support “​​allowing Michigan to join with other states in creating a state level paid family and medical leave law that would permit workers to receive time off to care for a seriously ill family member, or to care for a new addition to their family.”

Currently, Michigan has no requirement that employers offer paid family leave. While state Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit) introduced House Bill 5350 in 2021 to do just that, it was never advanced out of the Committee on Workforce, Trades and Talent.

But with Democrats set to control both the House and Senate for the first time since 1984, the chances a similar proposal can at least come to a vote are dramatically improved.


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.