Action, action — voters want action

Published 3:46 am Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Niles Daily Star

To talk to Scott Elliott, it would seem the need for change remains when it comes to Michigan government and especially when it comes to the party of his opponent, Republican and state Rep. John Proos.

The two are vying for the soon to be vacant District 21 seat in the Senate held by term-limited senator Ron Jelinek.

Scott Elliott

With just around two weeks until election day, Elliott, the Democratic hopeful, has been busy pounding the pavement around southwest Michigan.

“What I’m hearing from people as I go door to door,” he said, “is a real need for change and, to be honest, they’re skeptical about whether anybody can do anything about the situation.”

That situation is an economy that has left many Michigan residents out of work, business owners struggling to survive and voters unsure of how anything could be turned around.

“Here’s what it boils down to,” said Elliott, of Benton Harbor. “We’re not going to advance at all unless we can have an economy and a society that works for everyone. Because that’s what’s in everyone’s best interest.”

That’s not what Michigan residents are getting now, Elliott said. Instead, he describes the current state of Michigan’s economy and society as an unbalanced one and an ineffective one working in theory for “just the people at the top.”

“We are working on what’s good for working families and what’s fair for the affluent and privileged,” he said. “I think there are two real big issues: one is getting people back to work as quickly as possible, and the other one is training people for the new technology jobs that are in the future. We also have to restructure manufacturing. We’ve got to get back to making things.”

What Elliott would like to see made in Michigan starts at the ground level: infrastructure.

“Roads, bridges,” he said. “The kind of thing, that is going to help everyone. Instead of throwing tax breaks and tax credits endlessly at big business … why not offer infrastructure credits or education credits?”

Elliott also believes the state needs to build a more “reciprocal” relationship between its business owners and community colleges.

And he stands adamantly against the idea of “right to work” zones, championed by his opponent — who describes “right to work” as in which businesses could decide for themselves whether or not to operate under union.

“People will have to go and find two to three jobs in order to survive instead of one good job,” Elliott said. “(There) ought to be a great responsibility on the part of big business, corporations to — before they lay people off — to give them help in finding another job or being trained for another job.”

Thinking globally is something many businesses have been talking about, he said, “(but) you’ve got to think locally too, to the human beings who have contributed to your profitability.”

John Proos

On the other side of the party line, Rep. John Proos, who says he has also been at the doors of voters throughout the district, believes this election has become a personal one.

“Voters throughout southwest Michigan are coming to this election very much from where they are personally,” said Proos, of St. Joseph. “Families and individuals are struggling with unemployment, underemployment, questions about education for their kids, questions about the economy and its stability, questions about Michigan government and its ability to balance its budget with the revenues coming in the door.

“These are very personal questions that we as public policy officials have to be able to answer,” he said.

Should Proos win Jelinek’s seat in November, his first order of business will be to “benchmark” the state against others to determine its competitiveness.

“You look at Michigan tax policy and see how it compares to other states. You look at Michigan regulation and its paperwork requirements and see how it relates to other states,” he said.

From a lawmaker’s point of view, the idea might make sense. But to voters currently struggling with the state of the economy and a widespread lack of employment, how does analyzing paperwork translate into much needed help?

“The very first thing you need to do is eliminate the Michigan business tax surcharge,” Proos said. “It would immediately decrease the business tax burden on businesses who could immediately reinvest that money that is going to the Michigan government in people.”

Proos has also been vocal on the need to control spending, focusing on the state’s department of corrections as an example.

“Corrections is the one area that I’ve fought long and hard to right size to match that  benchmark that I spoke of,” Proos said.

But in hoping to curb unnecessary spending, he finds contention from his opponent, who attacks Proos for what Elliott says is a move to “take food off the plates of inmates, give them less to eat and save a few pennies that way.”

Voters want action

One thing both candidates seem to agree on, however — voters are looking for action.

“I’m encouraged enough that I spend more time every day going door to door and meeting people and I think that we have the right message,” Elliott said.

“I think they need to see results in the first three to six months to see we’ve cut the size of Michigan state government,” Proos said.

He added: “That unique southwest Michigan common sense philosophy is one that I think we need to carry to Lansing … (so) our southeast Michigan friends know the hard work and the ethic of the southwest Michigan region…”