Spinal Column: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the residents of western Oakland County

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Greetings! During this joyous season, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone in western Oakland County. It is my sincere hope that you are able to spend this time with loved ones.

Once again, I am blessed to be able to gather over the holidays with my family, whose love, support and encouragement enable me to make the difficult decisions that help build a better Michigan.

As 2013 draws to a close, we reflect upon the past year and look forward to a new year full of possibilities. I am proud of what the Legislature accomplished in 2013 to continue Michigan’s momentum toward recovery and prosperity.

We continue to take a proactive approach to revitalizing our state. As a result, we have more jobs, a better economic outlook and a more fiscally sound budget than when I took office nearly three years ago.

I remain committed to identifying and enacting innovative ideas to give all Michigan residents more opportunities and more freedom. This year, these solutions included approving a balanced budget that will help pay down debt, calling on Congress to do its job, providing increasing support for education and much more.

Throughout my time in the Michigan House and Senate, I have valued the voices of my constituents. I have benefitted from hearing your thoughts and experiences, and I have enjoyed getting to know you.

It is critically important that public officials listen to those who elected them to office. I know from my experience that listening to the residents of the 15th District has given me a greater insight into the challenges facing our communities and what needs to be done to improve our state and region.

This year, the Senate passed a structurally balanced budget that makes important investments in our roads, our communities and our future. As is always the case during the budget process, making decisions that will result in the state attracting well-paying jobs is my top priority. The state’s budget reflects that priority. The Senate took a responsible, long-term approach to budgeting that will pay down billions of dollars in debt so the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.

The Senate also passed a resolution formally asking Congress to call a constitutional convention for the explicit and sole purpose of writing a balanced budget amendment into the U.S. Constitution. The national debt now stands at $17.1 trillion. Every taxpayer now bears a staggering cost of $149,440 to repay the national debt, and every child born today carries a $54,000 bill as their portion of this debt. This bold step is necessary to avert a massive disruption to our nation’s economy and to ensure a future for our children.

I am happy to say that since Fiscal Year 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Senate have increased overall state funding for K-12 education by $800 million.

Much of this increased state funding has gone toward helping local school districts control the increased costs in the teacher retirement system. This increased investment will reduce our unfunded liability an estimated $15.6 billion in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. By paying down this long-term debt, we are protecting teacher and school employee pensions and helping local schools focus more dollars on classroom education.

I am hopeful for the future of Michigan. Our accomplishments and the inspiration the residents of western Oakland County provide give me renewed resolve to fight for our values and build on our achievements to help create more jobs and more liberty.
I wish you and your family the very best this Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. God Bless you all.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee and vice chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.