Our Editorial: In the new year, solve old problems

The Detroit News

2017 ended with a lot of unfinished business in the political world that must be addressed in the new year.

Rather than set expectations too high with an expansive list of resolutions, policy makers at the various levels of government could declare 2018 a good year by each focusing on a top priority.

Our preferences:

■In Washington, Congress has to do something about health care. An end of the year Associated Press poll indicates that health insurance is the top concern, at 48 percent, among Americans.

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act ended Dec. 15 with a final surge of signees, even though the new tax reform plan eliminated the penalty for not buying health insurance.

The hefty tax, the greater of $695 for per adult or 2.5 percent of total household income, was designed to incentivize younger, healthier people to buy health insurance. It never worked as intended.

But unless broader reforms accompany the end of the mandate, the insurance marketplace will continue to suffer from higher premiums and shrinking enrollment. The passage of the tax plan may be the death knell of the much-debated Obama-era legislation, but not the end of our health care woes.

President Barack Obama has urged Republicans and Democrats to work together in 2018 to come up with a solution. The GOP has shown it can’t pass a Republican-only fix.

So compromise and consensus are essential. Fixing health insurance and providing Americans relief from its burdensome costs can’t become an election year casualty. Congress must get this done.

■In Lansing, nothing is more important again this year than education reform.

Gov. Rick Snyder gathered together a 21st Century Education Commission to devise a plan for improving the dismal performance of Michigan schools. Its long and detailed plan includes eliminating the elected State Board of Education and giving accountability for the schools to the governor.

It also suggests free community college for Michigan residents, increasing funding for public schools while helping charter schools pay for their facilities, and expanding school choice for families.

These are good measures which will help the state catch up to top performing states such as Massachusetts and Florida. Michigan ranks 29th in earning post-secondary degrees, and its math and reading performance on national standardized tests is dismal.

The plan is solid. What’s lacking is the leadership to implement it. That should be Snyder’s final year priority, and the Legislature should fully support him.

■The fall 2018 ballot in Metro Detroit must contain a regional transit proposal that is more attractive and viable than the one voters rejected in 2016.

The defeated proposal would have expanded bus service throughout Metro Detroit, and funded a commuter rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit. It was adequate, but not visionary enough to convince voters who rarely use the bus system to fund a new tax millage to support the Regional Transit Authority.

The next version must appeal to those who now commute via automobile and not simply those who have no other option than a bus.

Parking shortages and traffic tie-ups are increasing as downtown Detroit continues to revive and expand. Rapid buses on the main thoroughfares fed by reliable multi-stop buses are a good solution.

Voters will be more likely to support that sort of system if it is unified and comprehensive. Right now, taxpayers are funding four separate systems in the region — Detroit Department of Transportation, SMART, Ann Arbor Transit Authority and the RTA.

So down that glass of bubbly and get some rest. There is work to do in the new year.