Sen. Mike Kowall issues statement on Michigan’s job increases, low unemployment

LANSING—Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, issued the following statement Wednesday following the news that Michigan has gained more private sector jobs than any other Midwestern state since the end of 2010 and the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.9 percent—the lowest in 14 years.

“For the past several years we have put policies in place to ease the burden on job providers and encourage them to hire workers. These policies continue to yield results, and today’s announcement that unemployment has dropped and jobs have increased is more encouraging news.

“Michigan’s unemployment is now the lowest since October 2001. The state has gained nearly 100,000 private sector jobs in the past year and nearly 400,000 private sector jobs since December 2010. We have seen significant increases in professional and business services; manufacturing; construction; trade, trade transportation and utilities; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality services.

“We must not take our eyes off the prize; rather, we must be diligent to implement policies that foster Michigan’s remarkable comeback. I will continue to work to ensure that happens.”

Kowall receives award for promoting health care safety

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, received the 2014 Healthcare Worker Safety Award on Wednesday from the International Sharps Injury Prevention Society and StaffAndPatientSafety.org for his work promoting staff and patient safety in health care.

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “Health care workers face many occupational risks as they care for the sick and injured. These organizations are to be commended for their work in promoting safety score audits and other safety precautions. I’m glad I can do my part to promote a culture of safety for health care workers and patients.”

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Sen. Mike Kowall offers free tax preparation guides

LANSING—Sen. Mike Kowall announced on Tuesday that residents of the 15th Senate District can download a free copy of the 2015 Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide by visiting the senator’s website.

The guide, which is a reference for the 2014 tax year, is designed to help residents prepare their state tax returns.

“The 2015 Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide contains reliable, updated information,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “The booklet is designed to ease the burden of filling out state tax forms. I encourage all my constituents to take advantage of this valuable resource when preparing their state tax returns or paying property taxes.”

The booklet contains information on Michigan’s income tax, property taxes and tax credits. Included is a year-long listing of important property tax dates and deadlines as well as copies of the most commonly used tax forms. The guide also features addresses, phone numbers and email information for obtaining state agency tax assistance.

Kowall added that the guide is meant as a helpful resource and not as a substitute for Michigan Department of Treasury tax instruction booklets.

Free copies of the taxpayer guide may be downloaded by clicking on the Publications tab, above.

Kowall represents western Oakland County in the 15th Senate District, including the cities of Northville, Novi, Orchard Lake, South Lyon, Walled Lake and Wixom, and the townships of Commerce, Lyon, Milford, Novi, West Bloomfield and White Lake.

American Heritage Bills to be introduced in Senate

LANSING, Mich.–A set of bills being introduced by Sens. Patrick Colbeck, Mike Kowall and Mike Shirkey will encourage schools to place a focus on the founding principles of our American heritage. The legislation is designed to promote good citizenship, provide students with access to original documentation regarding our nation’s founding and celebrate our heritage during Patriot Week.

Colbeck’s bill, Senate Bill 209, is also referred to as the Good Citizenship bill. It includes language to require the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to ensure that the K to 12 social studies curriculum is centered upon the founding principles of the United States, including federalism, the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and Michigan’s Constitution.

The bill enhances and clarifies the vital role of our education system to develop good citizens with a thorough understanding of how our system of government is intended to work. The bill ensures that, at the very least, information regarding the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States is tested on the Michigan Assessment Test.

“These bills are designed to help our students understand the unique system of government we have in America and develop a greater appreciation for our nation and its heritage,” said Colbeck, R-Canton. “The legislation seeks to give teachers additional tools with which they can ensure that core principles of our government as captured in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Michigan Constitution are embedded within our requirements for instruction. This is important as the principles taught today will be the principles used to govern in the future.”

The Patriot Week Bill (SB 210), introduced by Sen. Kowall, is a streamlined version of the Patriot Week resolution that the Michigan Legislature has a history of passing on an annual basis. This bill would secure the observance of Patriot Week in statute. The purpose of Patriot Week is to promote an understanding of American history and America’s first principles, particularly those principles captured in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. It goes further to ensure that we regularly honor the sacrifices of our veterans and those who currently serve in the armed forces to protect these principles.

“This important piece of legislation ensures that children will have appropriate grade-level instruction from third grade until 12th regarding veteran appreciation, first principles, key American principles, founding documents, and important historical events,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “Patriot week will symbolically begin on Sept. 11 and conclude on Sept. 17.”

Shirkey is introducing the American Heritage Bill (SB 211), which would restrict a school board or school officials from censoring or restraining a teacher’s instruction of our founding documents because of any religious references in their original subject material regarding our American or Michigan history or heritage.

“Our country’s founding documents and the historical context in which they were written is not something that should be subject to revisionist editorials or censorship,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “It’s fitting that we kick off this initiative on the birthday of James Madison, who is often referred to as the ‘Father of our Constitution.’”

Kowall honors Abbey Park veterans in Senate

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall honored several military veterans from the Abbey Park senior living facility in New Hudson during Senate session on Wednesday. The group included veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“It is always a pleasure to bring in retired members of our armed services to share time and experiences, but most of all to say thank you for their service to our country,” said Kowall, R-White Lake.

Pictured, from left, are: Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton; Joe Salvia, Michigan National Guard; William Clogg, U.S. Navy; Joseph Sammon, U.S. Navy; Phyllis Trestler, U.S. Marines; Thomas Trestler, U.S. Marines; Kowall; John Bell, U.S. Navy; Joan Morgan, Royal Air Force; Edward Hallo, U.S. Army; Brian McDonald, U.S. Marines; and Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc.

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Spinal Column: Governor’s FY2016 budget recommendations hit the right notes in key areas

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

In February, Gov. Rick Snyder presented his budget recommendations to the Legislature.

While there is much work to be done on the budget, the governor’s recommendations move the needle in the right direction in several key areas for Fiscal Year 2016, which begins Oct. 1.

The governor addressed three areas in particular that I support and would like to highlight: education, health and jobs.

Education
The governor proposed a total of $12.1 billion in K-12 state appropriations, which is a $208 million funding increase from fiscal year 2015. This includes $108 million to increase the foundation allowance, which equates to a $75 per-pupil increase.

The proposed investment of $25 million for a third-grade reading initiative would continue and advance the state’s focus on early education so that Michigan children can read proficiently by third grade.

Health
An investment of $3.5 billion in federal funds would enable the Healthy Michigan Plan to continue expanded Medicaid coverage. Another $21.8 million in funding to expand the Healthy Kids Dental program into Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties for children ages 0 to 8 would increase the number of children who will receive good dental care by 210,000.

$2.5 million is proposed for university autism programs focused on supporting programs at Eastern Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Oakland University, Central Michigan University and Michigan State University. These funds would be used to increase the number of trained service providers and available autism services.

Jobs
The proposed $83 million in total investments for skilled trades would help develop a skilled workforce that would lead the nation. This funding would help bridge the talent gap and better match the workforce needs of Michigan industry and business.

Of the governor’s proposed $83 million investment in skilled trades, $10 million would be designated for skilled trades training programs, encouraging more residents to master a skilled trade. This would help to address the skills gap for in-demand jobs to provide the talent that Michigan industry needs.

I am encouraged by the priorities the governor has set in his budget recommendations. These investments in the areas of education, health and jobs will continue to make Michigan a place where people want to come to live, work and raise a family.

I am eager to work with the governor and my fellow legislators over the next few months to refine this budget to ensure we are delivering the maximum benefit for your taxpayer dollars.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Kowall, full Senate approve five Natural Resources Trust Fund projects in Oakland County

LANSING—The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved legislation allocating $24.7 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) to natural resources improvement projects across the state.

The trust fund is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights.

“The Natural Resources Trust Fund supports vital projects that improve the quality of life for Michigan residents and those visiting our state,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “There are a number of projects in Oakland County that will see money from this fund, and this will benefit all of us in the area.”

House Bill 4078 specifically provides $2.9 million for the acquisition of approximately 314 acres of land in Holly Township for the creation and sustainable operation of a multi-use adventure park that would include mountain biking, trail running, off-road vehicle technical driving, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and scuba diving.

The bill also provides $385,000 for a $550,000 acquisition of a 10-acre parcel of parkland near the city of Novi’s western border for public recreational use including playgrounds, woodland pathway, and ball fields.

Three other Oakland County projects also funded by the measure include:

  • $280,000 for $400,000 in renovations to one of Inglenook Park’s busiest facilities, the ball park, which has sustained considerable damage over the past 30 years;
  • $127,800 for a $170,500 acquisition of approximately 15 acres of land to expand the Hickory Ridge Pines Park; and
  • $36,300 for $48,500 in development to construct a universally accessible fishing pier on Stewart Lake at Groveland Oaks County Park.

The NRTF uses constitutionally restricted funds to provide financial assistance to local governments and the Department of Natural Resources to purchase land or rights of land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. It also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.

HB 4078 authorizes the trust fund to spend $24.7 million to support 25 acquisition projects and 44 development projects. Matching funds of $9.8 million bring the total investment to more than $34.5 million.

HB 4078 now heads to Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign the measure.