Pure Michigan is in decline
Pure Michigan in pure decline. That is how one prominent writer described the state of our state.
After reading the facts spelled out in a report released by the East Lansing-based nonprofit group Prima Civitas, it would be hard to argue with that assessment. The group, which promotes competitiveness and innovation in government and industry, analyzed several aspects of Michigan’s economy. The report, “Michigan Dream at Risk,” should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers and voters in the fall election.
Although the report reveals a decade of neglect for our state’s infrastructure, each of the indicators have continued on a downward slide in the last four years, coinciding with Gov. Rick Snyder’s term of office and one party control of state government in Lansing.
The report documents the financial devastation Michigan families have experienced in a section entitled, “Biggest fall in family incomes in the nation.” Michigan families have fallen from 19th nationally in family income to 37th.
Michigan public schools, once the envy of the nation, have experienced a 16 percent decline in investment, exacerbated by the $1 billion funding cut that Snyder pushed through in his first year in office.
The unprecedented disinvestment in our public schools has led to serious shortages of classroom supplies, larger class sizes, and the elimination of music, art and physical education classes in many districts. Every school district in the state has less per pupil funding than it did when Snyder took office. Take a look at the website kidsnotceos.com to see how much funding your district has lost.
The report exposes Michigan’s disinvestment in higher education as well. Many middle-class families no longer have the opportunity to send their children to college because college tuition has doubled. It is no wonder, given the 29 percent drop in higher education funding.
In addition, our cities have suffered a 31 percent reduction in revenue sharing resulting in 4,000 fewer firefighters and police officers in communities across the state.
The report shows Michigan’s spectacular natural resources have suffered measureable damage. The miles of polluted rivers have doubled, while beach closures have increased 22 percent in the last five years. Our waterways are the single biggest tourist attraction in the state. This type of neglect will devastate our tourism industry and our economy as a whole.
And finally we come to our roads. The report rated Michigan roads as “worst in the nation.” Who could argue with that assessment?
The “Michigan Dream at Risk” report makes it clear that by every measure our economy has declined in the last four years Snyder has been governor. To understand how and why the Michigan dream has been compromised, one needs to look no further than the policies Lansing politicians have pursued.
Corporate tax cuts have been given top priority. Our schools, colleges and universities, natural resources and roads have all taken a back seat as billions of dollars in revenue have been consumed by corporate tax cuts. In campaign ads, Snyder calls himself an accountant. Unfortunately, he’s a corporate accountant. Michigan needs an accountant who will add middle-class families to the spread sheet.
Ad campaigns can tout “Pure Michigan,” but unless we pursue policies that truly value the things that make our state great — our infrastructure and our natural resources — it’s just an empty slogan.
Snyder promised to end Michigan’s economic decline. Instead, he has accelerated it. Pure Michigan is in pure decline. The only way to reverse these disturbing trends is to change directions, change policies, and change political leaders. If we don’t, we deserve what we get — more of the same.
Steven Cook is president of the Michigan Education Association.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.