Jenkins (Courtesy: Michigan Legislature)
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about raising the minimum wage both in Michigan and across the country in order to close the “income inequality” gap. However, this argument ignores the fact that there is actually something below minimum wage — and that is unemployment.
Not having a job, and therefore making no working wages, only worsens the problem of income inequality. By continuing to get Michigan working, we can make our state more competitive and our economy even stronger.
House Republicans agree with Gov. Rick Snyder that “economic growth is the best driver of economic equality,” and we plan to continue working hard in the state House to encourage economic development so more Michigan residents can find employment.
Our efforts are producing positive results. The state has added more than 221,000 private-sector jobs and has added more manufacturing jobs than the rest of the country over the past three years. Under Michigan Republican leadership, these new jobs have also increased personal income by $2,600 per person. In fact, Michigan was ranked first for income growth in the Great Lakes region for the first three quarters of 2013, and our state went from last in the nation for personal income growth to seventh.
By comparison, during the lost decade of 2000-10, personal income fell $171 per person and 800,000 people lost their jobs. Now, for the first time since 2006, the state’s labor force is starting to grow, and we will continue to foster job growth and strengthen our economy.
Whether it is by improving vocational training opportunities, investing more in higher education or focusing on closing the school readiness gap for all our state’s children, we must do all we can to make Michigan competitive and prepare our workforce to match employment demands.
Research shows that investing in the early education of disadvantaged children pays off down the road, but it also indicates that there is a direct relationship between higher education funding and a reduction in income inequality — and that states that invest more money in colleges have a more even distribution and higher average income.
In the fiscal year 2013-14 school aid budget, Michigan Republicans worked to invest money at both ends of the spectrum. Higher education and community college funding increased by nearly $32 million, and early childhood education received a $65 million funding increase, allowing for as many as 16,000 children to attend preschool that wouldn’t have before. There were also policy changes that went along with this funding increase to get the most economically vulnerable children into preschool.
We also focused on making sure those entering the workforce receive training for the most in-demand skills, taking an innovative, industry-driven approach to education. The Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program supports the high demand for an advanced skill set, reducing the unemployment rate among both high school and college graduates.
Each of these investments is designed to keep pushing Michigan forward and delivering a healthier economy.
In the long run, we must continue to find ways to help Michigan’s economy grow, because that leads to more success and higher personal incomes for everyone.
State Rep. Nancy Jenkins, R-Clayton, represents Michigan’s 57th District.