Michigan is the comeback state of the nation, but for all we've done, it's just not good enough. Now is the time to continue our reinvention with the FY 2014 budget, and we should follow the principles that we follow as families and individuals -- live within our means, save for a rainy day, and invest in our future. If we do it right, we can improve the quality of life for Michigan citizens by continuing to invest in education, health care, public safety, veteran services, natural resources and infrastructure.
FY 2014-15 Budget
We’ve done a great job over the past two years of keeping our budget balanced and saving for the future. Let’s do it again. Simply balancing the budget, though, isn’t enough -- there’s more we can and should do.
Paying and Lowering Our Bills
For our state to have a brighter future, we have to be sure to pay our bills and get on strong financial footing -- not leaving it for our kids to take care of.
That’s why I’ve proposed spending more than $1 billion to pay down the debt burden of public employee retiree health, dental, and vision benefits. That means paying the principal, not just the interest. Doing so helps ensure that employees can count on benefits when they retire without sticking future generations with the bill.
Investing in Infrastructure
As a car owner, would you rather pay for a $30 oil change today or $3,000 to rebuild your engine sometime down the road? The answer is pretty simple -- the oil change is the right choice.
Michigan has a similar problem on its hands. Our roads are deteriorating, but our road funding system is broken. We could wait until it’s too late and pay a massive bill, or we could invest a smaller amount today and start fixing the problem.
At the state level, we need to invest about $1.2 billion more per year on our roads -- that’s $12 billion over ten years. If we don’t act now, our bill will grow to $25 billion in the future.
Fixing our roads will cost about $120 more per vehicle, per year. But that added cost is all about savings. With better roads, families will save on vehicle repair costs, our state will save $13 billion over the long run, and it’s estimated that we will save 100 lives each year by preventing accidents caused by poor roads. What’s more, we’ll create over 12,000 jobs in Michigan.
Educating Our Children
Educating our children is a top priority for families in Michigan, and it should be a top priority in our state budget, as well. That’s why I’m proposing an increase in state spending on education, from early childhood all the way through higher education.
My budget proposal includes: $130 million over the next two years to expand early childhood education opportunities; a total of $11.5 billion in state funds for K-12 (a 2 percent increase); an additional $5.8 million for community college operations (a 2 percent increase); an additional $24.9 million for universities (a 2 percent increase); and a total of $10 million for blended and online learning.
A Healthier Michigan
Having quality health care is crucial for families and individuals in Michigan, but too many of our citizens are uninsured, and they lack access to the health care they need.
To address the problem, I propose expanding Medicaid for those in or near poverty (133 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit). With federal funding, we can expand coverage to 470,000 more Michigan residents in need of health care coverage -- according to one study, expanding Medicaid will reduce the uninsured by 46 percent.
Not only will this expansion help the uninsured, but it will also improve quality of care for all Michiganders while also reducing costs. In other states that have adopted health care reforms, emergency room use has declined by between 5 to 8 percent as individual with non-emergency conditions seek treatment in lower-cost, non-emergency settings. Because this expansion of Medicaid would reduce uncompensated care costs, we would realize savings from hospital visits that aren’t paid for.
My proposal also includes funding to provide dental care for low-income children, funding to reduce Michigan’s infant mortality rate, and grants for community organizations and coalitions to explore ways to improve health care in our state.
There are other ways that we can help make Michigan a better place to live, work and play. That includes: supporting job creation by funding a new skilled trades training program; putting Department of Human Services’ workers directly in local communities where they’re needed most (under the “Pathways to Potential” program); finding ways to help those on welfare to find work; improving children’s protective services, children’s foster care and adoption; helping our veterans; training more state troopers in order to help keep our state safe; helping to preserve our environment; and saving more for the future.
Michigan has made great strides over the last two years in achieving fiscal responsibility and saving for the future. With this budget, we have an opportunity to continue to reinvent our state, govern in a fiscally responsible way, all while providing better services for our citizens and improving our quality of life. Michigan is the comeback state of the nation -- let's keep that comeback alive.