The meeting was opened with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by an update on Second Amendment issues.
Gun Owners of America (GAO) is working in Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Texas to protect the right of people to carry firearms without permission from government officials. This right already is available in Vermont, Alaska, Wyoming, Arizona, Arkansas, and most of Montana.
An October, 2014, Gallup poll revealed that 63% of the questioned Americans believe that having a gun in their house makes it a safer place to be. Of the 11 demographic groups responding to the poll, only Democrats did not agree.
Vivek Murthy was confirmed as the Nation’s new Surgeon General on December 16, 2014. He is ardently anti-gun rights and regards guns as a public health issue.
Obamacare guidelines strongly encourage doctors to inquire about guns in one’s home—which information is recorded in a national data base.
Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) is suing the District of Columbia over its highly restrictive concealed carry permitting process, which requires applicants to have a “good reason” for carrying a weapon. SAF lawyers say this policy violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Congressman Tim Walberg’s field representative, Dustin Krasny, gave a brief update on issues before the U.S. House of Representatives. There is a lot of fighting over the budget as the House doesn’t want to give in to the President or the Democrats. Representatives intend to shut down the Department of Homeland Security by refusing to fund its activities. The House did approve authorization to proceed with the Keystone pipeline. The Senate also gave its approval, which, however, included an amendment acknowledging the “truth” of climate change.
A number of questions were raised by attendees.
How many votes are required to override a presidential veto? Response: Two-thirds of the membership of the Senate. Federal expenditures are budgeted to be 8.3% higher than last year. When are they going to go down? Response: Those expenditures include mandatory spending and entitlements. What can be done about illegal aliens receiving anything at all from the IRS? Response: The IRS chairman was grilled in Committee about illegals being hired by the IRS. A $323 million cut was made to the IRS budget in order to rein in the IRS. Also, the EPA budget has been reduced to its 1989 level. Comment: We aren’t holding people responsible for their wrong-doing. Private citizens would be in jail! Regarding the EPA, Congress should take away its power. Is there any way to do that? Response: The House did pass the Reins Act (H.R. 367, 8/2/13), which states that any regulation that imposes an annual burden in excess of $100 million must be approved by Congress. We need to cut budgets, and, therefore, manpower. Bureaucrats are not elected and need to justify their jobs.
State Representative Nancy Jenkins presented an update on Michigan’s budget situation. The Governor has proposed $456 million in previously unanticipated cuts to the 2015 budget due to the fact that companies that, in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, received tax incentives (credits) for which they now are demanding payments that the State is obligated to honor. The credits were offered as incentives to businesses to locate in Michigan and were tied to the businesses’ longevity or ability to create jobs. Now, both criteria are being satisfied, and more businesses than anticipated are claiming their credits. Payment of these credits was not included in the 2015 budget, so now cuts to the existing budget must be made. Departmental spending reductions will provide $169 million, and school aid reductions will contribute $250 million. These proposed reductions must be approved by both the House and the Senate.
Representative Jenkins stated that the budget is perceived to be ever-increasing; but the state is paying down its debt and increasing its rainy-day fund at the same time. Both items appear in the budget as expenses. The rainy-day fund is now at $500 million, with an ultimate goal of $1 billion. Debt has been reduced by $20 billion.
Through his 2016 budget, Governor Snyder wants to emphasize three areas:
Education—with a focus on accomplishing satisfactory reading skills by the end of the third grade; early intervention and parental involvement in problem areas; testing; assisting distressed school districts; investing $25 million in technology in schools; encouraging student participation in skilled trades programs; career development through technical education, middle college, and dual enrollment in high school and college classes; Public safety—adding 75 State Police Academy graduates; processing rape kits and resolving the related crimes; drug policy initiatives; addressing sexual assaults on college campuses; Health and human services—with dental programs for poor people state-wide.
Questions or comments for Representative Jenkins follow.
Is there a plan in place for dealing with road maintenance if the May 5 ballot proposal fails? Response: Yes. We are addressing budget planning with the assumption that the proposal will fail. Will any money be dedicated to roads if the proposal doesn’t pass? Response: The Governor has dedicated sufficient funds in his budget to meet federal matching funds guidelines. Please consult with Senator Bruce Caswell regarding education spending. He spoke to Lenawee 9.12 last month [1/8/15] about Michigan’s educational situation. Among other things, he specifically stated that no study has ever proved that even one student has ever benefitted from technology in the schools. Eliminate the lame-duck session after elections. It only allows those who were defeated to continue passing legislation which the people may not want or that may hinder the next legislature. Medicaid expansion allows the federal government to take over our state government and dictate to it. Do lobbyists tell legislators what to budget or do they contribute anything to the budgeting process? Response: Lobbyists do speak for their interest groups. They are both good and bad influences.
Randy Wood, Michigan field director for Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a fiscally conservative organization that operates nation-wide, talked about Michigan’s May 5 ballot proposal that is supposed to address road funding. He stated that education, public safety (i.e., police and firemen), and roads always are cited as the reasons for increasing taxes. The budget dedicates $113 million to roads, the minimum the state can spend in order to receive federal matching funds [which taxpayers also provide].
The proposal seeks a $1.34 billion increase in sales taxes, $95 million in vehicle registration fees, $1.2 billion in gas tax increases, as well as internet sales taxes. Only 25% of the increase will go to roads in the first year, with the percentage increasing to 62% by the fourth year. The proposal seeks nearly $2 billion dollars in increased taxes per year forever. If we want to fix our roads, we must make difficult choices and do it with $10 billion. It is essential that we communicate with our representatives as they are inundated daily with requests from special interests. If our elected representatives can’t do the job with the resources available, we need to replace them.
The proposal includes funding for a new Senate office building, ergonomic furniture, and pH control of the Capitol lawn. It also includes $200 million to be awarded as earned income credits, $300 million for education, and $130 million for mass transit.
Our roads can be addressed without a ballot proposal that amends the State Constitution and incorporates 10 unmentioned laws that already have been passed by the Legislature but will not become effective unless the proposal is approved, and will maintain the same level of taxation forever. Examine the contents of the proposal and find out what is involved. [Click here for the AFP Michigan web site.] We always can return to the road funding bill that passed the House in the last session.
Participants posed the following questions and comments.
Vote NO on this tax increase! Road funds haven’t been used for road maintenance—why? Response: Only 40% of the money goes to roads, the rest goes to various purposes, some of which are constitutionally stipulated. Can we be sure road monies won’t be spent for something else? Response: We must assume that proponents will do as they say. Money isn’t the problem, but what is? Bruce Caswell can give the answers. Government involvement is the issue. What is the estimated outlay for road funding? Response: It’s difficult to get specific numbers. The ballot initiative won’t change anything. Why is all this other stuff in the proposal? Government says we need 1.3 billion dollars to care for roads. But the proposal will only give 25% of the amount collected in the first year. How does this help? We can’t fund roads, but we manage to build round-abouts. What gives? Is any of this money going to build or maintain bike trails? Response: I don’t remember whether bike trails are included, but the proposal does address mass transit in Wayne County. Some things were put in to gain agreement on the proposal. State law requires a minimum of one percent of all road project funds be spent on bike paths, round-abouts, etc. It’s known as Complete Streets. We can build roads without raising taxes. Money going to roads already is constitutionally protected. But we can’t depend upon receiving discretionary funds. Isn’t there still discretionary capability within the constitutionally protected monies? Response: Each legislature can do as it pleases with discretionary money. We can do without all the ancillary bills and dedicated money in the proposal. The more complex the language is, the greater the opportunity for finding places to allocate money.
Adam de Angeli of Concerned Taxpayers of Michigan (CTM) said his organization is fighting the ballot proposal, and that the state is holding our roads hostage in order to raise taxes. He asked, “Is this being done lawfully?” The language describes a constitutional amendment, but fails to mention the ten laws that are waiting to become effective if the proposal is approved. CTM is fighting the policy and the manner in which the proposal is being presented.
[Editor's note: Scott Hagerstrom, who was, until recently, Director of AFP-Michigan, has joined the Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals as Director of Grassroots and Strategic Engagement. Click here to watch their first television ad entitled "Special Interest Deals - CHECKOUT."]
Mark your calendar now for our next meeting on Thursday, March12, 2015, when Congressman Tim Walberg will join us.