ESCANABA - Residents of Delta County had an opportunity to express their concerns during an informal meeting with State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.
Both legislators were present for a town hall meeting at Drifter's Restaurant late Monday morning. Approximately 20 people turned out to hear what the legislators had to say, as well as bring their concerns up.
"This past week we have been working on the governor's budget proposal, which contains some scary and difficult aspects," said McBroom. "But I believe (Gov. Snyder) is trying to do something bold, inventive and fair for all Michigan residents."
McBroom said Michigan is currently only paying interest on a $14 billion debt year after year, and that it was time to consider what that amount of debt would mean for future generations.
"What is needed is a cultural change in Lansing," said McBroom. "The governor's plan has good potential."
Casperson said the Senate had reservations concerning the budget presented by Snyder, noting there were some points that would need to be worked out through both chambers.
State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, speaks with Escanaba resident G. Dale McNamee during an informal meeting with constituents Monday at Drifter’s Restaurant. State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, was also at Drifter’s to speak with contiuents and listen to their concerns. (Daily Press photo by Dionna Harris)
"This is not a budget that will be given rubber stamp approval," said Casperson.
Both Casperson and McBroom said the proposed budget is receiving a lot of support from the public, and the issues faced by Michigan go far beyond the Granholm administration, but back to the Engler administration.
"The same games were being played...under the Engler administration, when the economy was more robust. However, the time for kicking the can forward is over," said Casperson.
One resident voiced concern about discontinuing tax deductions for charitable contributions, especially organizations such as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul.
Another resident said some charities are more worthy of being tax exempt than others.
The issue of cutting school funding by $470 per student was also discussed.
"The governor has said promised incentives for schools, which may replace the current method of funding. However, there remains some uncertainty what the criteria will be for schools to receive these incentives," said Casperson.
Linda Howlett, vice president of the Gladstone School Board, said school boards in the Upper Peninsula know it will take a long time to fix the problems, and no one is expecting a magical turnaround.
"In Gladstone we work with the Intermediate School District, and we worked with Escanaba in a cooperative business management agreement. We are reaching out to other municipalities in cooperation," said Howlett.
She also noted the state school aid fund was raided again over the past year, and now the current budget is looking to push higher education (colleges) to gain from the school aid fund.
"We have cut our budget by 10 percent, with 85 percent of our budget tied up in staff costs," said Howlett. "There is not a lot of room for any further cuts. We have been doing this for a long time, while trying to keep programs intact, which is becoming difficult to do."
She said the Gladstone School District hired 16 outstanding teachers to replace 21 teachers that retired following the conclusion of the previous school year. Under the proposed budget, some of those teachers recently hired face the potential of being laid off.
In response to Howlett's concern, Casperson said a school reform plan is anticipated to be released by Snyder in April and he hoped to see the proposed cuts to public schools (K-12) offset by the plan.