Reflecting on the State of the State Address

Thursday, January 26, 2017
State Rep. Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak) with his wife, Jodie, at the 2017 State of the State address at the state capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017.

My wife, Jodie, and I had a great time visiting with residents and leaders from all across Michigan at the State of State address.

I was excited to hear Gov. Rick Snyder continue to speak about the importance of career technical education, STEM and vocational trades. I have several ideas to help advance our state’s progress in these areas, and look forward to working with Gov. Snyder my colleagues to help students and adults prepare for these high-demand jobs.

I was disappointed that I did not hear a clear plan of action from Gov. Snyder to empower our schools and communities. Over the past six years, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Snyder have continually sent a very clear message to our schools and communities that they know best. The fact is, our schools and communities are the ones who know best. They are on the ground working every day to deliver the most critical services: pre K-12 education, police, fire, EMS, maintaining our local roads, etc. We need to empower them, not undermine them.

For example, while Gov. Snyder spoke about the importance of our communities and placemaking, his actions paint a very different picture. Every other state has empowered their communities by making sure more tax dollars make it back home. Yet Michigan has cut funding to local governments by $7.5 billion since 2002.

Gov. Snyder set a goal for the state to reach a population of 10 million residents once again over the next three years, but we need vibrant communities that attract new residents to achieve this goal. If we continue doing the same thing, we shouldn’t expect different results.

Our state’s population has remained relatively flat since 1980, yet due to failed state policies, we have doubled our infrastructure during that period, meaning that same number of taxpayers are paying for twice as much infrastructure.

Also during that same period, fewer tax dollars have been returned to our communities, and the state has tied the hands of local governments, limiting our ability to invest in ourselves. So it’s no wonder why our infrastructure is crumbling.

Similarly, while Gov. Snyder touted the need to invest in STEM and career technical education, the Republican-controlled Legislature and governor continue underfunding schools and shifting K-12 dollars away from the classrooms.

As many of our schools are working to enhance and grow their STEM and career technical education programs, the Republican-controlled Legislature and governor have been changing the rules every year, by taking K-12 revenue from the School Aid Fund and tying the hands of our schools by creating pet-project funds. In many cases, our schools have to move away from their long-term goals and objectives and go in different directions each year to compete for these funds.

Rather than micro-managing our schools and communities, who do know best, I plan to work toward a budget and policies that empower our communities and schools to meet the unique needs of their students and residents.

If you have any questions, suggestions or need help resolving an issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office. You can reach us at (517) 373-3818 or toll-free at (866) 585-2471. I hope to hear from you about your thoughts and ideas in the near future as we work together to move Michigan forward.