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John Proos: Lansing’s only options: true reform or tax hikes

Published 10:44am Friday, September 25, 2009

Michigan faces a $1.8 billion budget deficit in the general fund and $1 billion deficit in the school aid fund for the upcoming year – just two years after the largest tax increase in state history.

Michigan lawmakers are currently faced with a dilemma similar to 2007 in that there are two options to balance the budget:  raise taxes or change the way government operates.
Legislative leaders have less than a week to set a budget based on incoming tax revenues and I encourage my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to take on the responsibility required by the Michigan Constitution and balance the state budget by adopting true reforms and concrete solutions to our annual budget deficits.

In preparation for the budget deadline of Oct,1, I have worked with my colleagues to create a  House Republican budget plan that reinvigorates, reinvests and reforms Michigan’s state government without raising taxes and changes the way the state does business.

Complete details of this plan, first introduced over two months ago, can be viewed at

It includes:

• Cuts to legislative pay and benefits;

• Investment of stimulus dollars in infrastructure, not government debt financing;

• Support for school and local municipal funding;

• A balanced state budget without fee or tax increases; and

• A promise of stability, avoiding a government shutdown.

I’ve also introduced legislation to implement a two-year budget plan which would control government spending and provide more oversight of the functions of government.

By putting in place a system to review what works, and more importantly – what doesn’t – the state will operate more efficiently and affordably.

This will allow for more certainty for school, municipality and agency budgets that rely upon state funding.

This year’s budget is an opportunity to look down the road at the Michigan we want for our children and provide a government that reflects these priorities.

These basic and necessary functions of government start with education, infrastructure and public safety.

However, overspending and big government will not benefit the struggling families and businesses of Michigan.

In 2007, rather than a tax increase, I advocated for true government reforms as a long-term solution to an ongoing structural deficit.

This time around, I will advocate the same.

As chair of the Strategic Task Force on Jobs, I’ve seen a real urgency from individuals and businesses across the state.

They are struggling to keep their doors open, to pay their bills and to keep families employed.

I will be issuing a report in the coming months that will provide a long-term vision for job and business growth.

It will highlight the real need for change in both attitude and policy from state government, and provide solutions suggested by community leaders to help position our state as one of the most attractive states to do business.

At the heart of Michigan’s 15-percent unemployment is the 22-percent tax surcharge that is stifling business growth and driving unemployment up.

The most effective role that government can play in our economy is to foster an environment that promotes business growth through a competitive tax structure.
Every day families in Southwest Michigan are living the reality of our economic downturn in their own budgets as they struggle to make ends meet.

Michigan’s state budget and high taxes are directly related to the number of jobs and people who are forced to relocate.

It’s time to find long-term solutions by resolving Michigan’s perpetual budget deficit and get Michigan families back to work.

State Rep. John Proos is a St. Joseph Republican.

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