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As lawmakers struggle to find more money for roads, a new report highlights some of the problems they’re facing.

Earmarking is a practice that ensures a certain amount of funding for specific services, and it can tie the hands of legislators, whose duties include making monetary decisions.

That’s the conclusion of a report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a nonprofit research group.

Two-thirds of the state’s budget is earmarked. For fiscal year 2015, of the state’s $53 billion budget, the CRC report says 42 percent is financed by federal funds that are directed to specific purposes. While the remainder is financed by state revenues, including various taxes and fees, a large portion is designated for specific functions or programs either by the state constitution or statute.

Craig Thiel, senior research associate for the CRC, notes earmarking has taken a large portion of the discretion out of budget planning so when it comes time to prioritize, the available resources are restricted.

Lawmakers would be wise to examine the CRC findings and limit the practice.

School raises money for new floor

Port Huron Northern High School officials and supporters should be commended for their innovative thinking in raising money to replace their 50-year-old gymnasium floor.

A $120,000 fund-raising project is under way with the idea that no tax money will be needed.

Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Jason Kasparian says $10,000 each from 10 corporate sponsors is being sought. In return, the sponsors will receive a 4-by-8-foot sign on the floor of the gym listing the company name. About $86,000 has been pledged.

In addition to business donations, the Athletic Boosters club has pledged $10,000 and another $10,000 is hoped for in smaller contributions from students and the general public.

Kasparian says getting community support only makes sense because the gym is a multi-purpose facility that he hopes can be opened up to local organizations as well as a variety of school groups.

Despite tight school budgets, capital improvement work needs done. When local businesses and the public pitch in, then all share in the fiscal success.

OK2SAY helps students

Officials are pleased with the results from the first year of the OK2SAY program and believe it is making a difference in protecting students.

More than 1,400 tips were submitted by students from across the state. For 2014, 601 tips were verified including 231 on bullying and cyberbullying, 74 threats of suicide and 10 on child abuse.

Aimed at thwarting school tragedies before they occur, the program urges young people to report by telephone, text, web, email and multimedia technologies any threats of violence they believe may affect other students. OK2SAY was formed as an early warning system in schools and guarantees the confidentiality of any submitted tips.

Most students want to do the right thing when it comes to protecting themselves and their classmates. The program offers students a way to report a possibly violent incident in school without fearing retaliation.

Parents, school officials and others concerned with school safety should encourage students to use the tip line.

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