A step backward for Michigan

As I sat and listened to the governor’s speech Wednesday evening, I found myself agreeing with some of the things she called for, while finding concerns with some of her plans.

I join her in her calls for funding our schools and making sure our kids have the opportunity to receive a quality education, while also having the options to make a sound career choice that works for them. Last year, the Legislature approved a budget that increased per-pupil funding as well as options available for those who wish to pursue a career in the trades.

In order to further increase avenues for student success, I introduced legislation that will give kids additional options when choosing courses as they prepare for their life ahead. My legislation would put coursework and curriculum decisions back in the hands of local districts. Specifically, the bills would eliminate certain graduation requirements and give students the chance to take other classes that might better prepare them for their future. I hope I can count on her support.

I also found myself sharing many of the governor’s concerns about things like clean water and our environment. Michigan has led the nation in measures to remediate ongoing PFAS issues and spent a great deal of time and effort to ensure folks have safe drinking water. As chairman of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy budget, I remain committed to these efforts and agree that this must continue to be a top priority.

We must also continue to monitor the unfortunate situation currently facing the Great Lakes. Lawmakers must work to seek out efforts to mitigate the ongoing high water and erosion issues that impact our public infrastructure. I would have liked to see the governor speak more on her plans to help alleviate these problems in the future.

I find it concerning for the governor to admit that she is going around the Legislature, the traditional avenue for funding measures, to plunge the state into over $3.5 billion of debt. Since 2015 the Legislature has pumped additional money into road and infrastructure repairs, and even included additional funding in this year’s budget prior to it being vetoed. There have been several discussions on how we can repurpose existing resources without increasing taxes or borrowing against future generations, and I would much prefer seeing those plans come to fruition.

Less than 24 hours after her speech, the Michigan Department of Transportation was given the authority to sell bonds as her plan to force Michigan into an uncertain, expensive future went into effect.

I join my colleagues in having strong reservations about this as an avenue for fixing Michigan’s roads. The governor’s plan largely focuses on southeast Michigan and does nothing to address funding for local roads in my district, despite sticking taxpayers in my district with the bill.

Additionally, the Legislature spent the last 10 years paying down debts exactly like the one the governor just committed Michigan to for the next nearly three decades. The state is still paying off bonds from the Gov. Engler era. I find it hard to get behind passing the buck to our kids as the best approach.

I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fund our schools, improve drinking water and the environment and look at ways we can make meaningful repairs to our infrastructure.

I look forward to the governor’s upcoming budget presentation and working with her administration to get a budget done on time and continuing efforts to make Michigan a better place to live and do business.

Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, represents the 34th state Senate District, which includes Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties.