Lori: state finances improve

Published 6:11 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — “Things are looking well in the state financially,” with a possible $600 million surplus in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, state Rep. Matt Lori reported to the Cass County Board of Commissioners Jan. 5.
“I caution people if we have a surplus about spending it all,” the Constantine Republican who represents most of the county except the Dowagiac area in Rep. Sharon Tyler’s district, said. “We all saw what Washington went through this fall.
“There are some good things coming up. You’re going to see a series of bills come out very shortly in the next week or two on road and infrastructure funding involving some sort of revenue increase.
“Personal property tax, (County Administrator Charlie) Cleaver and I have talked about that issue and what it does to the county, city and villages unless there is a replacement. That’s the big question in Lansing right now — how we replace that revenue without cutting people off at the knees.”
School funding “looks better,” Lori said. “I think we’ll be in a position to put more money into education.”
Lori, the former St. Joseph County sheriff in Centreville, remembers 2011 as a “different year” because he toiled in the Republican minority his first two-year term, before the GOP gained House control his third.
Lori chairs the Community Health Committee, which oversees Medicaid, Medicare and senior services totaling some $14 billion.
“I spend the vast majority of my time in that arena,” he said. “It’s a tough assignment. Michigan is almost to the 2 million mark of people on Medicaid. That’s just a huge expense to the state and I don’t see a downturn until the economy starts to pick up.”
Commissioner E. Clark Cobb, D-Dowagiac, asked about changes coming to the retirement system.
Lori, drawing on his law enforcement career as an example — 25 years and out at 52 years old — said “those types of systems need to change. Instead of collecting at 52, that person may need to wait until 60. Those types of changes are probably coming.”
Lori told Commissioner Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, he voted against the bill to move road commissions under board of commissioners’ control.
As a former sheriff, he’s “skeptical” of regional dispatch.
The lawmaker said coffees to meet constituents will resume in February.