Taxes and revenues
Since the 1970s, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been considered a significant poverty reduction tool that encourages individuals to work. In 2006, Michigan created its own state-level EITC based on 20% of the federal tax credit. The governor and state lawmakers scaled back the Michigan EITC to 6% in 2011.
Would you support fully or partially restoring the state-level EITC to 10% or 20% of the federal tax credit?
Michigan is one of only seven states that continues to rely on a flat income tax rather than a graduated income tax, like the federal income tax. States with graduated income tax structures tax at higher rates as income rises making it a more modern and equitable system.
Would you support reforming Michigan’s income tax structure from a flat income tax rate to a graduated one?
Sales taxes are typically considered to be the most regressive type of tax, costing individuals earning low wages a larger proportion of their income compared to wealthier individuals. Expanding the sales tax to apply to services can serve to both increase revenue and make the sales tax less regressive. Even still, the sales tax will remain regressive, which is the reason some states offer sales tax credits to provide relief for individuals who earn the least.
Would you support extending the state’s sales tax to services with a sales tax credit for filers with low wages?
While Michigan’s actual tax revenues have grown year after year, when adjusted for inflation, revenues are below 2000 levels by about 18%, and state lawmakers have continually pulled funds away from general state coffers to fund specific programs, such as road funding and the Personal Property Tax repeal reimbursements. At the same time, the costs of providing Michigan residents the most basic services have grown, increasing pressure on our budget. This has meant that programs have had to be funded at the expense of others, furthering Michigan’s disinvestment in its communities, education, infrastructure and other services on which its residents and businesses rely.
Would you support exploring new revenue sources or expanding existing ones, for example by eliminating outdated and unnecessary tax exemptions or credits, to fund vital state services?
Help for struggling people and families
Out of 16 states offering families additional heating assistance to qualify for additional food benefits, Michigan was one of four that declined to add dollars to keep the Heat and Eat program going when federal rules changed. That means an average loss of $76 a month in food benefits for 150,000 families, seniors and people with disabilities. It would take only $3.2 million in state dollars to bring in $138 million in extra federal food assistance for these Michigan residents.
Do you favor spending $3.2 million to bring in this additional food assistance?
Michigan has one of the most stringent income eligibility levels in the country for child care subsidies for families with low wages. Given the high cost of child care, without assistance many parents find themselves in the difficult position of relying on unstable or even unsafe arrangements for their children or placing their jobs in jeopardy.
Would you support the use of state and available federal funds to expand child care subsidies to more families with low incomes?
Children in families that must rely temporarily on state income assistance live in increasingly deep poverty as a result of the very low payments provided by the state (a maximum of $492/month for a family of three). Michigan provides a one-time payment of $140 for all school-age children in families receiving Family Independence Program assistance so children can start school with at least a decent set of clothes, but with current prices, this doesn’t carry children very far into the school year.
Would you support an increase in the annual school clothing allowance to ensure that children can purchase the clothes, shoes and overcoats needed for school?
Food assistance (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helps families experiencing financial difficulties purchase food, helping parents feed and provide for their children without disrupting their lives. In 2012, Michigan passed a law that required the state to limit the amount of assets a person could have in order to qualify for food assistance. This was implemented just as the state was exiting a decade-long recession and at a time when most states (about two-thirds plus D.C.) were eliminating their own asset tests. This penalizes families that have saved for emergencies, for their retirements or for their children’s futures by requiring them to spend their assets in order to receive food assistance.
Would you support legislation or policy changes that either increase the asset limit on food assistance or completely eliminate the requirement, joining most other states in the nation in doing so?
Addressing child poverty and education
Nearly half (49.9%) of Michigan third-graders did not demonstrate proficiency in English Language Arts (reading and writing) in 2015. Legislation under consideration would require that third-graders who are not proficient in English Language Arts as measured by the state test would be required to repeat the grade; although, if the student is proficient in other subjects, then instruction for those may be given in a fourth-grade classroom. Alternate tests and portfolios may be used to document reading skills and some good cause exemptions are provided, however, the school superintendent would make the final decision. Critics contend research on retention shows a higher likelihood of dropout for retained students while supporters of retention decry the negative impact of social promotion.
Would you support mandatory retention of Michigan third-graders who are not proficient in English Language Arts ?
Child poverty in Michigan has escalated by almost 60% over the last 15 years. Almost 1 of every 4 children in the state lives in a family with income below the poverty level: $19,000 for a family of three and $24,000 for a family of four. Several policy initiatives to alleviate child poverty have been suggested, such as reinstating the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal EITC, expanding adult education and other workforce development opportunities, and raising the child care subsidy and eligibility so parents earning low wages can have access to child care.
Would you support any of these initiatives?
Michigan has been a leader in investments in preschool programs for 4-year-olds, but funding for families with infants and toddlers living in poverty or near poverty has declined—despite scientific evidence that the first three years of life are when children’s brains are growing most rapidly, affecting their lifelong development, learning and achievement.
Would you support additional state funds for proven programs for parents of very young children, including home visiting, parenting programs and Early On?
One in 10 children, or 228,000, in Michigan have had a parent in their household incarcerated at some point in their lives—one of the highest rates and largest populations of children impacted in the country. Having a parent incarcerated can lead to increased poverty, stress and unstable environments, affecting kids’ health and academic performance. Additionally, approximately 95% of Michigan’s prison population will return to the community after serving their sentences making reentry and family reunification services critical for the formerly incarcerated, their children and communities.
Would you support a comprehensive, multigeneration approach, including the expansion of support programs, family reunification and reentry services, to ensure that the needs of children and their parents, families and communities are met while a parent is incarcerated and upon their return home?
With the recent housing bubble burst dropping property taxes, declining enrollment and the inability of the state to fully invest in K-12 education, many Michigan schools have fallen into financial crisis. Recently the state legislatively dissolved two school districts and Detroit Public Schools, our largest public school district, nearly fell into bankruptcy despite years of state control. Two other schools have emergency managers, and two are under a consent agreement, with many more under deficit elimination plans or state review.
Do you believe the state should be doing more and providing more financial help to Detroit Public Schools and other school districts that have fallen into, or are on the verge of falling into, financial crisis?
Jobs and the economy
Workers who are laid off, or who work in low-paying jobs, can often improve their financial situation by building skills at a community college or university. However, Michigan’s financial aid grants are not available to workers who have been out of high school more than 10 years. There was a legislative proposal last year to reinstate the Part-Time Independent Student Grant, which helps older workers (including many with families and full-time jobs) go back to school and get a degree. This grant was discontinued in 2009.
Would you support the reinstatement of the Part-Time Independent Student Grant to help older workers get the skills they need for family-supporting jobs?
Although Michigan’s economy and unemployment rate have improved, there are many workers still seeking work, and there continue to be businesses that for some reason or another face difficulty and need to lay off workers. Yet, Michigan is one of a few states that allows unemployed workers to receive up to only 20 weeks of Unemployment Insurance (UI) while they look for jobs—nearly all other states have a maximum of 26 allowable weeks of UI which Michigan also provided until cutting back in 2011. While some unemployed workers find another job within 20 weeks of becoming unemployed, it is important that they have additional weeks if they do not to prevent further family disruption.
Would you support reinstating the 26-week maximum for unemployed workers to receive Unemployment Insurance while they look for work?
More than 1.7 million (44%) Michigan workers cannot take time off with pay when they or one of their children are ill. Becoming sick puts these workers in the difficult position of having to either stay home and lose wages, or go to work and risk becoming sicker and exposing coworkers (and often the public) to illness. Parents feel pressure to forgo needed medical care for themselves and their children, and to send their child to school sick because they cannot miss work to take care of them. An earned sick leave law similar to what several other states and cities have would help Michigan workers by requiring most employers to bank sick time for their workers based on the number of hours they have worked.
Would you support a Michigan earned sick leave law?
Criminal justice reform
Michigan is one of nine states that automatically charges 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. In nearly every other aspect of the law, whether it is voting, buying a lottery ticket, serving in the military or signing a contract, 18 years of age is legally required, yet 17-year-old youths must be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced as adults in criminal courts in Michigan. Research on development shows that 17-year-olds are not adults and are better served in juvenile justice systems.
Would you support raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to age 18?
Persons of color are arrested, detained and incarcerated at higher rates in Michigan as well as around the country, though national statistics demonstrate that higher crime rates do not account for this disparity. While only comprising 14% of Michigan’s population, African-Americans comprise over half, or 53%, of the state’s prison population, and they are detained at a rate more than six times higher than white people.
Do you support training for police, judges and others in the criminal justice system, along with the use of a race equity policy tool, to expand understanding of the disparate impact of the system and its policies on communities of color?
An estimated 20-25% of prisoners have been diagnosed with severe mental illness and many more with mental health problems. Nine of every 10 prisoners with severe mental illness also suffer from substance use disorders, and upwards of 65% of those with mental health symptoms do not receive treatment. Michigan has recognized the need for alternatives to incarceration for those suffering from behavioral health issues by implementing mental health courts and substance abuse programs for those serving time and on probation and parole.
Do you support diversion programs and improved mental health and substance abuse treatment programs within prison facilities to improve access for incarcerated people?
Flint water crisis
In April 2014, Flint switched its drinking water source to the highly corrosive Flint River, and a decision to not properly treat the water caused lead to be leached from the pipes into the water. This resulted in thousands of Flint residents, including children, being poisoned by the water they drink daily. Unfortunately, lead poisoning has no cure, and all Flint residents, especially children, will require lifelong services to help detect and treat developmental and educational delays and health problems caused by lead. Furthermore, lead continues to be a problem in almost all of our communities, either through lead pipes or lead in paint in older homes, and it needs to be remedied statewide.
Would you support continuing to provide long-term funding to help residents affected by the Flint water crisis? Would you also support looking at a statewide solution to abate existing lead, prevent future poisoning and provide services to those already affected?