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State’s next budget finalized

The Michigan Legislature finalized a bipartisan fiscal year 2021 budget last week. The budget is balanced, on time, and increases investments to important priorities like job training, K-12 education, and public safety without raising taxes.

Highlights of the budget for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula include funding to cover a shortfall in retirement funding for the Michigan Works! UPward Talent Agency and flooding disaster relief matching funds. Previous funding, which had been set aside for these issues, was vetoed twice by the governor because of COVID-19 and a disagreement on the administration’s proposal to raise the gas tax by 45 cents.

Houghton and Baraga counties will receive $4 million in matching funds to help the region recover from the Father’s Day 2018 flooding that damaged hundreds of miles of roads and bridges. The state funding is necessary to receive vital federal matching funds.

Funding was restored from the previous veto in the amount of $1.1 million to help cover a shortfall in retirement funding for the Michigan Works! UPward Talent Agency. The agency, which provides services and support to the U.P.’s workforce development system, previously lost its pension funding.

The education budget featured a $65 per student increase in state aid payments for all schools in addition to restoring the $175 per pupil reduction made to balance the FY 2020 budget. It also includes an additional $66 million for growing schools, $37 million for student mental health support and $3 million more for early childhood literacy.

To help kickstart Michigan’s economy, the FY21 budget also includes:

$26 million for the Going Pro program to support businesses, community colleges and other organizations to help train employees.
$30 million for Michigan Reconnect, which provides financial assistance for people to complete an associate degree or skills certificate. 
$1.5 million for Graduation Alliance to help adults obtain high school diplomas and placement in career training programs.
$3.75 million for the Jobs for Michigan Graduates program, which equips young adults with skills to overcome barriers and prevent school dropouts. 

Mining inspector reforms would provide needed updates for safety

Legislation recently introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives would update the requirements for individuals to serve as mining inspectors in the state.

County mining inspectors serve an important role of regularly inspecting abandoned, closed or idled mines. Among other responsibilities, they check for appropriate fencing needs and monitor for caving ground. 

Senate Bill 1121 and House Bill 6240 would remove a requirement currently in state law that requires mining inspectors have at least 10 years’ experience in the profession in order to be elected in counties that currently have only abandoned or idled metallic mineral mines. The bills would also permit counties to form agreements to share mining inspectors. 

With more than 800 abandoned mine sites in the U.P., it is an important safety issue for our local units to be aware of and be able to timely inspect these areas. When the Western U.P. counties shared that they were having difficulty finding eligible individuals to serve because of restrictions in the state law, it seemed appropriate to look at making necessary and reasonable updates.

SB 1121 was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration, while HB 6240 was referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.

U.P. officials testify in support of ‘Dark Store’ bill, against Whitmer tax tribunal appointee

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The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday last week took testimony from Escanaba City Manager Patrick Jordan in support of Sen. Ed McBroom’s legislation that would close the so-called dark store tax loophole.

Senate Bill 26 would close the dark store loophole by revising the way property taxes are assessed on vacant big box stores and by ending the process of placing deed restrictions on closed stores, which is a scheme used to lower a building’s market value.

The dark stores loophole has resulted in local governments losing out on vital tax revenues needed to pay for the expense of having those stores located in their communities, which burdens all other local businesses with those costs.

The bill remains before the committee for further consideration.

Last Thursday, McBroom, Rep. Sara Cambensy, and former Marquette Township Manager Randy Girard testified before the Senate Advice and Consent Committee in opposition to the governor’s recent appointment of Victoria Enyart to the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

Girard said when Marquette Township filed a case before the tribunal in 2012, Enyart said the township should “not bother to file; I’ve already made my decision.”

Ms. Enyart has a troubling history of supporting the dark store loophole, time and again ruling in favor of multinational corporations’ bottom lines over local governments trying to offer public services with dwindling resources, and local businesses who can’t get the same tax break. The U.P. deserves a tax tribunal that puts the interests of the people first, not conglomerates.

I introduced a motion during the committee hearing to disapprove Enyart’s nomination, but the motion unfortunately did not pass.

U.P. lawmakers support Natural Resources Trust Fund ballot proposal

The Upper Peninsula’s members of the state Legislature recently announced our support for a proposal on November’s general election ballot that would reform the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) to allow more dollars to be used for recreational improvement projects each year.

The Michigan NRTF has served its original purpose well since its establishment nearly five decades ago. These reforms are timely to help ensure that today’s needs are better funded, which is why I support this ballot proposal to change the state constitution. We should be focused on taking better care of the attractions and assets we have, including our parks, trails and water access. This proposal will provide needed flexibility while allowing use of the funds for generations to come.

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Bills introduced to authorize sale of former Ojibway Correctional Facility

New legislation I introduced with Rep. Markkanen would allow the state to sell the former Ojibway Correctional Facility, which was hastily shuttered by the state Department of Corrections in 2018.

Senate Bill 1075 and House Bill 6150 would authorize a potential sale by the state Department of Management and Budget.

The surprise closure of the Ojibway Correctional Facility was a loss to the people of Marenisco and Gogebic County. The impact of the prison’s closure has been felt deep and wide. In addition to the prison jobs lost, area businesses have lost out on tens of millions of dollars in economic activity through no fault of their own and families have moved away. The ripple effects of the closure are still being felt.

We are still advocating with the state for funding that was promised to help with economic development in the area following the closure. Along those lines, it’s time for the state to sell the property to a private company that will actually work to rebuild, repurpose and reemploy hardworking U.P. residents. Let’s get this done.

SB 1075 was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration, while HB 6150 was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

COVID-19 resources

While the coronavirus pandemic is improving, it is certainly not over. Below is a list of resources available to you if you need any type of assistance. Additionally, you can contact my office at any time for more information.

General information, resources, testing locations and more on Michigan’s response

Coronavirus hotline for health-related questions, available every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Michigan PEER Warmline, for mental health support and substance abuse challenges, available every day from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

National suicide prevention lifeline, available 24/7
Text TALK to 741741

Small business resources

Michigan's 38th Senate District

The 38th State Senate District includes the counties of Alger, Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon, and Schoolcraft in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula.

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Thank you for subscribing to my electronic newsletter! I am honored to represent you in the state Senate. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. Please feel free to forward this on to others who may be interested in receiving the 38th District E-news. You may sign up for it also at my website.

Senator Ed McBroom
7200 Connie B. Binsfeld Office Building
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

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