Lansing— Democrats said Thursday several items in Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address “defy belief” and the state surplus is a result of “stealing from the School Aid Fund.”
While Snyder defended his education record by arguing he has increased per-pupil aid $660 in three years and given money to help with school pension funds, Democratic lawmakers said he has distorted his record.
“He claimed the state has put $660 per pupil into education — which is simply untrue,” said House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills. “Yes, the state, the legislative Republicans and the governor did put a lot of money in the school employee retirement funds. But that alone does nothing to solve our educational problems in this stage. We need money in the classroom.”
Democrats contended money has been slashed from schools, class sizes have increased and education is “headed in the wrong direction because of the damage Republicans have done,” Greimel said.
Avondale Schools Superintendent George Heitsch remains concerned about the way dollars for per-pupil funding are being directed. He said he was glad the state is funding obligation costs but said not enough money is going into classrooms.
“We’d like to see a commitment into restoring the per-pupil funding we lost a couple of years ago,” Heitsch said.
While Snyder pledged tax relief, Democrats responded by arguing families face smaller tax refunds under the governor because of a loss of tax credits and a big reduction in the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers.
Working-class families and seniors are paying more in taxes after Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature approved $1.8 billion in tax cuts for companies, they said.
Democrats hit Snyder on other economic issues, with Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing calling the Republicans’ track record “one of broken promises and unfulfilled plans.”
Michigan has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, while “he’s slashed unemployment benefits and made it harder for countless Michiganders to get back to work,” Whitmer said.
Snyder emphasized in his speech that Michigan had the best job growth nationally since the recession, while an adviser acknowledged the state still needs to improve after having the country’s highest jobless rate during the recession.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer released a statement shortly after Thursday’s State of the State saying Snyder’s speech was “happy talk.”
“What Michigan needs right now are good schools and good jobs to help strengthen the middle class and rebuild our economy,” Schauer said. “As governor, I’ll invest in our highly skilled workers and small businesses so that they can compete for the jobs of today, and invest in education so that our children can compete for the jobs of tomorrow.”