A bad, bad, super-bad proposal

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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A bad, bad — you might say super-bad — proposal is working its way toward the November ballot.

It is a scheme funded by billionaire Matty Moroun (the owner of the Ambassador Bridge who is fighting Gov. Snyder on a new bridge) — with support from Washington anti-government zealot Grover Norquist — to buy an amendment to Michigan’s Constitution that would work in their favor at the expense of Michigan’s middle class and local taxpayers.

The so-called supermajority proposal is actually a type of “superminority” proposal, allowing a small number of lawmakers (just 13 senators!) to control state revenue and have a devastating impact on Michigan’s democracy and economy.

Here’s why this supermajority requirement, now being considered for the November ballot, is a super-bad idea:

  • It’s bad for the economy. The seven states with similar tax limitations fared worse in the most recent recession than states without them.
  • It would make it virtually impossible to end tax breaks that have harmed our credit rating and haven’t helped our economy, including tax breaks for large, profitable corporations.
  • It’s impossible to anticipate the future. What if there is a Hurricane Katrina-type of calamity? The supermajority requirement would tie the hands of lawmakers when they need to respond quickly. (more…)

Reaching for the American Dream

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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As you pitch horseshoes, enjoy a parade or view fireworks Wednesday, it’s a good time to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

The hard work of generations before us allows us to enjoy our freedoms today. Our founding fathers envisioned freedom from oppression. Today we are more likely to express the idea as the ability to live freely – and the freedom to reach for the American Dream. (more…)

Picking up the pieces

There’s still time to sign up for the League’s free policy forum on Tuesday at the Lansing Radisson.

We’re hoping for a frank discussion on what’s happening in Michigan with cuts in unemployment, food assistance and cash assistance. With so much focus on the economic recovery, we have to make sure policymakers remember the recovery is slow and many people are still being left behind.

You’ll hear from David Eich, executive director of Michigan 2-1-1, which works to connect people in need with local resources. Also speaking will be Kareemah El-Amin, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Rev. Bruce Roller, executive director of the United Church Outreach Ministry. (more…)

Unacceptable but correctable

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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Last month, I shared with you the League’s proud history of 100 years of research and advocacy on behalf of economically vulnerable children and families in our great state.

As the Legislature and governor prepare to tackle the challenges that still face our state, I want to give you a snapshot of the League’s latest reports which help to highlight the pressing priorities.
Kids Count, by far, had the most stunning news. (more…)

No summer break for hunger

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter

It’s summertime and the living is easy, unless, of course, you’re dealing with hunger. (more…)

Don’t kill anti-poverty tool

From the First Tuesday newsletter

We’ve all heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  Another way of saying it is, “If it works, don’t fix it!”

And that brings us to a very real concern over the possible reduction or decimation of the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, an anti-poverty tool that works for working people.
What is it exactly?  The state EITC has been mischaracterized by some in the media and some legislators who don’t quite understand it. It’s pretty simple: It is a credit based on 20 percent of the federal EITC, and it only goes to people who work — low- and moderate-income families with earned income.

So let’s look at the numbers: Close to 800,000 tax filers claimed the Michigan EITC credit last year bringing $338 million into our local economies. Although not designed to be an economic stimulus, it is a welcome economic shot in the arm for struggling small businesses as well. The money that folks get back is spent in their neighborhoods for gas, food, clothing, rent and car repairs.

There is talk about using some of the state’s $34 billion list of “tax expenditures” (tax credits, deductions, loopholes and the like) to fill the new proposed hole in the budget that will be created with the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax. But that list should not start with the people who are striving each day to make ends meet. If eliminating the dreaded MBT will be good for businesses, why should low-income people be asked to subsidize business when there are $34 billion other ways for that to happen?

Last month I talked about “reality matters.” I recognize that lawmakers and the new administration will have to make very tough decisions over the next several months to address our budget deficit. My hope is that all tax expenditures be evaluated to see if they are doing what they were meant to do. So let’s slow down this process, put everything on the table and take a measured approach to figuring this out in a fair and equitable manner.

And, as this debate continues, let’s remember the faces of those in our economy who are helped by this tool: janitors, housekeepers, restaurant workers, daycare and home health aides, cashiers, and retail clerks. These are the very people who often are in charge of our loved ones, or who make our days easier.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

Saying goodbye after 34 years

From First Tuesday, the League’s monthly newsletter

At the end of last week I retired from the League after nearly 34 years. I am leaving with very mixed emotions.

I have spent half of my life at the League and I am deeply invested in everything about the League. The League has a rich and proud history that dates back nearly 100 years. The issues it embraced in 1912, in the ’20s, the ’40s, the ’70s, and now, really haven’t changed that much. The League’s focus has always been to make things better for vulnerable families and individuals in our state.

The League has a very long list of accomplishments, but three things stand out for me in particular, during my tenure at the League.

The League fought fiercely to prevent the elimination of the General Assistance Program in 1991. The elimination of GA for over 83,000 single adults and couples without children dealt a severe blow—not just to the people affected, but to the safety net that Michigan had once provided, at the urging of a Commission tasked by Gov. William Milliken in 1971. Look around today. The program may have gone away, but the people haven’t. They are on our street corners, in our community shelters, in our jails, and our corrections facilities. They probably aren’t in our mental health system since that too, has been decimated by budget cuts.

The League’s role in keeping the Stop OverSpending (TABOR) proposal off the 2006 Michigan ballot was also a proud moment for the League. Thanks to the League’s close relationship with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., the TABOR issue was on the League’s radar screen long before it was viewed as a credible threat by many others.

The League provided the leadership for the Defend Michigan coalition that led the public information campaign about the dangers of this far-reaching proposal—a campaign that ultimately resulted in the proposal not making it to the ballot. I have no doubt that, had it appeared on the ballot, it would have passed and public services in Michigan would have completely unraveled.

The League also played a pivotal role in building a constituency for a state Earned Income Tax Credit, advocating for its enactment and protecting it from being scaled back or eliminated, as Michigan’s fiscal crisis continues. The EITC is so important for low- and moderate-income families, particularly during this brutal economic period. It simply cannot be sacrificed, while special interest tax cuts for businesses, many of which are outdated, remain on the books.

Having been at the League for so many years, I appreciate the important role it has played in the public policy arena, and the role it will continue to play. I am grateful to have been a part of this for so many years.

I couldn’t be happier that State Sen. Gilda Jacobs has agreed to take over the leadership of the League. I wish her well and I’m confident that the League, under her direction, will continue to be a strong advocate for Michigan’s most vulnerable residents.

Finally, I want to thank my entire League family—the staff, the board, our members and friends. All of you have supported the League in your different roles and you have each helped make the League the strong organization that it is today.

Gilda Jacobs named president & CEO

Board chair Lynn Jondahl

As chair of the Michigan League for Human Services’  Board of Directors, I am very pleased to announce today that state Sen. Gilda Jacobs will be the League’s next president and CEO.

We know that change is both challenging and full of opportunities. What makes it challenging is saying goodbye to Sharon Parks, who has worked on behalf of vulnerable people for more than three decades in Michigan.

Sharon is well known around the state and a tireless, smart and quick-witted advocate. She has been a key part of the League since 1977 and I knew her well in my capacity as a state representative working on social issues. She took over as president and CEO in 2008 after the retirement of Ann Marston, who very ably led the organization for 14 years.

Sharon will be missed, and we plan to call on her for help with the League’s mission even as she enjoys her well-earned retirement.

But change also brings opportunities, and Gilda brings a bounty of talents to the table.

She is finishing up her second term as a state senator from Huntington Woods. She also served two terms as state representative, and she was an Oakland County Commissioner and Mayor Pro-Tem of Huntington Woods.

Gilda has a reputation for working across the aisle.  She has many friendships in state government and in both parties in the Legislature, and she was the state’s first female floor leader in either chamber, selected by her peers.

Her legislative record is impressive. She led a bipartisan effort among legislators, lobbyists, county commissioners and Detroit Zoo leaders to establish a 20-year tri-county millage in 2008 to support the zoo. She is the sponsor of laws that allow children to carry epinephrine pens or inhalers to camp, prohibit sex offenders from adopting children and make medical records more secure, among others.

She is an able fund-raiser, working for many years for JARC as development director.

Trained as a special education teacher, she has passion for advocating for people with disabilities as well as low-income children and their families and the frail elderly.

We will miss Sharon but she will be replaced by the right leader to move forward the mission of the League in advocating for vulnerable people in our state.

— Lynn Jondahl, chair of the League Board of Directors

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