Continuing Michigan’s positive momentum

Continuing Michigan’s positive momentum

As we look back at the year that was, 2017 was one of great success and hope for our future.

During my seven years in the Legislature, we’ve achieved much to energize our economy and build a better Michigan. Per capita personal income, employment and economic productivity are up. Crime, state debt and the percentage of children in poverty are all down. Michigan has added more than 500,000 private sector jobs, and our state unemployment rate has been cut by more than half.

To help continue that positive momentum, we once again passed a fiscally responsible budget ahead of schedule that makes smart investments in top priorities facing Michigan families and businesses.

Education is key to success, and we passed a 2018 budget that increases support to schools by more than $415 million and pays down more than $1 billion in retirement costs to help put additional dollars into the classroom.

In fact, Michigan is spending more in 2018 on K-12 education than ever in state history. Our $14.6 billion investment includes a foundation allowance increase for every school, a $120 million increase in at-risk funding and $244 million for preschool.

The budget also increases local revenue sharing, funds 150 state police troopers to protect our communities, and boosts transportation funding by more than $214 million — including $130 million more to help fix local roads.

As someone who served 30 years in local government, I strongly believe that we owe it to our local workers and retirees to keep the promises made to them and ensure they receive the retirement benefits they earned.

Unfortunately, local governments in Michigan are $18.8 billion in the red on their pension and retirement health care obligations. That is why we passed legislation to increase transparency and ensure local governments understand their financial situation and, if necessary, have a plan to solve their debt problem.

We also updated our state firefighter training standards for the first time in more than 30 years to ensure our firefighters receive the training they need to meet challenges as they protect our families.

Opioid abuse is the deadliest drug epidemic in American history, and we have seen the terrible impacts here in our local communities and throughout the state, where the epidemic is killing thousands of residents every year — more than car accidents.

To combat opioid addiction, we worked together to pass bipartisan legislation to better educate our youth and patients about the dangers of becoming addicted to painkillers and ensure better reporting of prescribed opioids by doctors. I am proud to have introduced Senate Bill 47, now law, to help doctors recognize opioid addiction that could lead to early substance abuse intervention.

It is a common-sense approach to save lives while maintaining access to necessary pain medications.

These are just a few of the accomplishments we made in 2017 to make Michigan a better place and more attractive to tourists, families and job creators. It is an honor to serve you in the state Senate, and I remain committed to working tirelessly to improve our great state.