Jelinek briefs Rotarians on state issues

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- It's no surprise balancing the State budget currently is the big issue in Lansing, knowing July is the end of the fiscal year.
State Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, who represents Michigan's 21 District, told Niles/Buchanan Rotary members balancing the budget, however, isn't the only issue causing debate in the state capitol.
Jelinek spoke to the Rotary Club Monday at its meeting at the Niles Inn and Conference Center Monday.
Jelinek, however, did speak about budget cuts first, in particular the budget cuts affecting education.
Among those tough decision will be how to make up for an expected $105 million shortfall in school funding for next year, he said.
Although there is already a significant $91 million short fall in school funding this fiscal year, the state won't reduce schools funding because it's late in the year and the schools have already spent the money, he said.
However, to balance the state budget, which is required by law, Jelinek said the state has already located $91 million that will cover this year's fiscal shortfall in school funding.
Another issue that will be discussed before the fiscal year ends, he said, is Governor Jennifer Granholm's suggestion to cut funding for adult education by 75 percent, as well as her plan to eliminate Math and Science Centers.
In addition, Jelinek said the Governor also wants to reduce the $2,500 Merit Award Scholarship to $500.
The Merit Award Scholarship, created in 2000, has helped 140,000 high school students from Michigan afford to attend college, Jelinek said.
Among the good news, however, is that the $6,700 student foundation allowance will be maintained this and next year, he said.
Among the issues not related to education, Jelinek mentioned a proposed Aqua Bill.
The bill is a suggested long-term groundwater protection plan that would be managed by the Department of Environmental Quality, he said.
He said factories in Michigan and people living here are daily using enormous amounts of water without knowing how much water there is in the state.
Jelinek also mentioned a new bill, that if approved, would allow horse track owners to install gambling machines at their horse tracks.
He said the horse racing industry in Michigan is in trouble and this is their way of trying to find a way to increase their revenue.
The casino industry is already opposing the bill, he said.
Asked a question by one of the Rotary members how the Governor has performed since she was elected, Jelinek said he thinks she has done a pretty good job.
He does believe, however, that she mislead people somewhat on the budget issue.
Jelinek also voiced some concern over the Governor's suggestion to stop all new road projects and only do necessary maintenance work.

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