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EDITORIAL

Editorial: GOP to-do list sets right state agenda

The Detroit News

House Republicans have developed a 14-point plan for the current session, and their priorities are mostly right for Michigan. But like any practical to-do list, this one needs to be prioritized.

The 2017-18 action plan includes agenda items big and small, some with more urgency than others. This session could be called a success if the Legislature gets a few of the larger, more urgent pieces done.

Start with addressing the crushing debt on Michigan communities and school districts. The plan notes local governments are more than $14 billion in debt due to unmet pension and retiree health care obligations.

Lawmakers took up in the lame-duck session a sweeping pension reform proposal, but did so without the necessary deliberation or buy-in from those affected.

The recipients of these benefits must be included in the reform talks; they are the ones who will be most hurt if the system collapses. And it will collapse if substantial course changes aren’t made soon.

It is encouraging to see infrastructure made the list. Michigan, according to a recent study commissioned by Gov. Rick Snyder, needs $4 billion a year for the next 20 years to mend roads, bridges, water lines and sewers.

And yet in the last Legislature, it took a Herculean effort to eke out a few extra cents of fuel taxes to repair the roads. This new group of policymakers must be more realistic about what it will take to meet the infrastructure needs.

A crucial priority is training the next generation — and this one — for real-world jobs.

The stark failure of Michigan’s public education system was again revealed with the release of an analysis by the University of Michigan that placed state students at the bottom of the nation in proficiency growth.

Other states have shown what must be done to improve learning. Michigan doesn’t lack a strategy. It lacks the will to pull together toward a common goal of fixing its schools.

If lawmakers are serious about checking this box, they should move first to eliminate the state Board of Education as an independent body and place responsibility for the schools entirely with the governor.

Better skills training for the current workforce is also essential. The Legislature should support existing programs that are working to make residents more employable.

The GOP caucus also pledges to be ready to act once the picture becomes clearer on Obamacare. Changes to the Affordable Care Act will likely disrupt the Healthy Michigan Program. The state will need a Plan B.

The House leadership is committed to tax reform, and is already pushing a bill to phase out the personal income tax. Before it gets to that point, however, it has to figure out how to either replace the revenue, or severely slash spending.

There are a number of other things on the list, from reducing regulations to tightening abortion restrictions.

Lawmakers should not bog down on social issues, nor waste time on matters aimed at pandering to constituents.

Michigan has a lot of needs. GOP lawmakers have ably identified what they are. Now they must get to work meeting them.