Editorial: Make roads, education top issues
Monday, January 7, 2013
The new legislative session brings with it a chance for revisiting priorities. And after the contentious lame duck session that saw some bitterly divisive social issues being taken up, it’s time for a return to policy issues that position the state for a stronger economic future.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s priorities for 2013 fall in that sphere. One of his goals is to address funding and repairs for the state’s deteriorating roads. It cannot be said often enough: Michigan needs better roads and bridges.
The state that put the world on wheels seems determined that its residents will drive on pothole-filled surfaces. The Legislature has kicked this can down the road far too many times. A broad coalition of business, labor and tourism interests have repeatedly called for action and offered numerous possible strategies for raising needed funds. Lawmakers must be serious about making this a priority in 2013.
Snyder also wants to modernize Blue Cross Blue Shield to reflect the changing state and national health care environment. He vetoed a bill that would have done that after lawmakers added a so-called “abortion rider” that would have put requirements on how the Blues handled such services. Lawmakers should avoid jamming social issues into a future bill.
Area lawmakers have an array of priorities, but one most deserving of attention is strengthening higher education and making it easier for the state’s young people to afford college. From Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal of providing four years of tuition assistance for Michigan residents to proposals for low-interest loans or loan forgiveness, Democrats representing Ingham County are making this a priority. Funding for higher education and making college affordable are both goals Michigan must achieve to keep its solid footing in the “knowledge economy” of the 21st century.
Several lawmakers also are concerned with K-12 funding. GOP Sen. Rick Jones would like parity in the state’s per-pupil payments, while he and fellow Republican Sen. Mike Nofs both want to make sure that K-12 funds are not diverted to colleges.
Lawmakers who are serious about supporting education — and all of them should be — must get equally serious about reforming corrections. Michigan’s consistent overspending (and overincarceration), have long been a budget drain. It’s time to consciously decide to cut back on corrections and right-size the state’s commitment to education.