Kowall: Committee approves long-term roads solution

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate Government Operations Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would ensure a long-term funding solution to repair, maintain and improve the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, said committee member Sen. Mike Kowall.

“To tackle the problem of our decaying roads and bridges, Senate Republicans have designed a solution that is simple, stable and responsible,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Kowall, R-White Lake. “And it is a long-term fix. This is what Michiganders want.”

The package of Senate and House bills, known as the Fixing MI Roads initiative, proposes a combination of new revenue and reprioritizing existing state resources, which would ensure the necessary funding for Michigan infrastructure.

New revenue would come from a gradual gas and diesel tax increase and the implementation of a road use fairness system in which hybrid and electric vehicle registration would increase. The plan also would implement a fee schedule and additional taxes on alternative fuels.

The increases to the gas and diesel tax would be phased in. From Oct. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2015, drivers would pay five cents more per gallon of fuel. From Jan 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2016, the tax would rise another five cents per gallon. Finally, on Jan. 1, 2017, the tax would top off at 34 cents per gallon with the final five cent increase.

“I think we can all agree that our roads are in poor shape and getting worse,” Kowall said. “This plan addresses our infrastructure issues both in the short and long term.”

Fixing MI Roads would also guarantee $700 million of income tax revenue annually is used for transportation purposes before it reaches the General Fund budget.

The plan would instill a competitive bidding program for contractors, ensure that townships could take a more active role in future road projects, and require a future assessment and evaluation of the current system by sunsetting all gas taxes in 2033.

The package of bills now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Oakland Press: Balanced, fiscally responsible budget sets the right priorities

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

For the fifth consecutive year, the Legislature has presented a balanced budget to the governor by early summer, several months before the Sept. 30 deadline.

The Fiscal Year 2016 budget maintains the right priorities and is fiscally responsible. It supports vital services, improves government accountability, builds on our commitment to our schools and invests an additional $400 million from existing revenues into fixing Michigan’s roads and bridges.

The budget will make government accountable to the public. It pays down debt and reinforces a long-term approach to a structurally sound budget.

As in recent years, we have strengthened our commitment to education. Funding for third-grade reading has been increased to $31.5 million; over the past five years, we have invested more than $1 billion in state funding for our schools to deliver a quality education for all our students. Reducing legacy costs is directing more money to the classroom and our kids.

The School Aid budget will help to promote vital opportunities for Michigan’s schoolchildren to succeed in our ever-changing economy; the budget invests in the future by placing more money toward educational opportunities, college and career planning, and skilled trades training.

As Michigan’s economy continues to grow and create jobs, the need to increase support for career and technical education needs to grow right along with it. In this budget we increase support for career and technical education to more than $36 million. This means more funding for skilled trades, workforce development and adult education programs. It is an investment in career training to provide students and workers the skills necessary to land well-paying jobs.

Additional budget highlights include the following:

Savings. I am glad we were able this year to invest $94 million in the state’s savings account. This puts the Rainy Day Fund over the half billion-dollar mark and ensures that the state will have a safety net. It is critical to maintain this fund at adequate levels in case of emergencies.

Revenue sharing. Making sure our local communities have the funding needed to provide vital services is one of the state’s responsibilities. The budget increases revenue sharing by $1.24 billion, helping guarantee locals the money they need.

Public safety. The budget invests in our local communities and promotes safer communities by directing more money toward local police and fire services. And it enhances public safety with additional money to fund the hiring of 88 new state troopers to help fight crime in our communities. Better preventive measures and more accessible rape-detection kits will help in the fight against campus sexual assault.

MPSERS. This budget makes a significant contribution to the debt for the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System (MPSERS). It increases state contributions to MPSERS by $217 million — for a total of $994 million in debt reduction.

Higher education. Increased funding to higher education will provide greater accessibility while a cap on tuition increases will help keep costs manageable.

Children’s services. We’ve increased funding to the Healthy Kids Dental Services by $37 million so more kids can receive access to dental care.

Health care service. We continue to fund rural hospitals, providing more Michiganders access to much-needed health care services.

My colleagues and I in the Legislature continue to focus on fiscal responsibility and sound budgeting. We will continue fighting for hardworking taxpayers to build on the foundation we have laid for Michigan’s future economic success.

This op-ed first appeared in the Oakland Press. 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.

Spinal Column: Legislature delivers balanced budget to governor, focusing on education, roads

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Last week the state Legislature sent the Fiscal Year 2016 budget to Gov. Rick Snyder. I am proud to report that for the fifth year in a row, lawmakers have delivered a balanced budget to the governor several months before the Sept. 30 deadline.

As we have done for the past several years, Senate Republicans have submitted a budget that delivers an efficient and effective state government that operates within our means. The budget promotes accountability by paying down debt and reinforcing a long-term approach to a structurally sound budget.

Due to the encouraging figures from last month’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, we have been able to direct more money toward roads in this year’s budget. We have invested an additional $400 million to fix, maintain and repair our infrastructure.

Once again, we have strengthened our commitment to education. We have increased funding for third-grade reading to $31.5 million, helping to ensure a brighter, better outcome for Michigan’s children.

Over the past five years, we have invested more than $1 billion in state funding for our schools to deliver a quality education for all our students. In addition, this year more money is directed to the classroom and our kids by reducing legacy costs, which is also helping to pay for the increasing costs of retiree benefits.

The FY 2016 budget allocates $36.6 million for career and technical education. This will help energize our workforce by providing more funding for skilled trades, workforce development and adult education programs.

The budget invests in our local communities and promotes safer communities by directing more money toward local police and fire services. And it enhances public safety with additional money to fund the hiring of 88 new state troopers to help fight crime in our communities.

Senate Republicans will continue fighting for hardworking taxpayers to build on the foundation we have laid for Michigan’s future economic success.

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 reminds residents of boating week, free fishing

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Friday reminded his constituents to take advantage of two of the favorite summertime activities of Michiganders.

“Michigan Boating Week starts June 6 and runs through June 14, while our annual Summer Free Fishing Weekend runs Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “Both of these events can enhance your enjoyment of the thousands of lakes, rivers and streams we have right here in Michigan. I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the beauty of our great state.”

Michigan Boating Week is an annual celebration of the great outdoor activities offered by the state. It is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Waterways Commission and the Michigan Boating Industries Association. The week-long event offers many opportunities to start boating, get back onboard or learn some new skills to use on the water.

The week-long celebration concludes with the Summer Free Fishing Weekend on June 13 and 14. During the weekend, all fishing license fees are waived, although all fishing regulations still apply. The free fishing weekend allows residents and visitors to fish on all inland and Great Lakes waters.

Michigan offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world, with more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and 36,350 miles of rivers and streams.

For more information on the Summer Free Fishing Weekend, including a list of activities across the state, visit www.Michigan.gov/FreeFishing.