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What an exciting time to live in Michigan!
I think back to where we were just two short years ago and the progress is remarkable. In 2010, Michigan's unemployment rate averaged 12.6 percent; this past year it's under 9 percent. In the past two years Michigan has gained 140,000 jobs and in the last year home sales increased 11 percent over 2011 sales. The policies we've put in place have contributed to Michigan's ranking as the 6th fastest growing GDP in the nation.
Like many of you, I remember two years ago being disheartened with the direction of our state. I decided to run for office in the hopes that I could help make a difference for us and for future generations. I am encouraged by the changes we have made thus far.
But our work is far from over. Now we must continue to build on those successes. We will continue our work to turn our economy around to create more and better jobs. We will focus on living within our means when it comes to the budget. And we will continue to promote educational excellence through parental empowerment and local control.
If these themes sound familiar, they should be. They are the same objectives that I promised that I would pursue back in 2010. I have not forgotten your mandate to fix our state. While it has not been easy, we are starting to see the fruits of our focus and hard work. We will soon see greater stability, security and prosperity for all of Michigan's residents.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work on your behalf toward a brighter future for Michigan!
MICHIGAN WORKERSFrom 2000 to 2010, Michigan lost more than 750,000 jobs and unemployment spiked at 14.1 percent. Many people refer to that time as our state's "lost decade". My Senate colleagues and I came to Lansing determined to help build a better climate for job growth.
Right out of the gate, we replaced the job-killing Michigan Business Tax, ending double taxation for more than 95,000 small business owners. Michigan's business tax climate has now climbed to 12th best in the country, second only to Indiana in the Great Lakes region.
Unnecessary and costly regulations prevent many job providers from hiring workers. We cut bureaucratic red tape, requiring regulators to adopt common- sense tests on proposed rules and accelerate the permitting process.
More recently, the workplace fairness law gives Michigan a chance to attract new job providers. Along with giving workers the right to choose whether or not to belong to a union, workplace fairness, or right-to-work, laws are identified by many companies as a major factor in determining where to locate or expand.
In December, we took action to phase out the costly industrial personal property tax - an archaic tax on business machinery and equipment - while protecting revenue for local police, fire and schools. Small businesses with less than $40,000 in personal property value no longer are subject to this job-killing tax.
Slowly but surely, Michigan is coming back. Our state added 140,000 jobs in the past two years and our population grew in 2012 for the first time in seven years!
SCHOOLSAll kids deserve a great education. Parents are widely recognized as the most important factor in determining the success of a student. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I and my colleagues have worked hard to adopt policies that engage our parents by empowering our parents.
First and foremost, we lifted the cap on public charter schools so new schools can open, offering more choices for parents and students. Children learn differently, so having more options lets parents pursue the school environment that works best for their child's academic success and growth.
We increased online learning options by allowing more statewide cyber schools. Many students are very successful using technology to learn at their own pace. I sponsored the legislation to ensure more students have access to a quality e-learning education.
Another reform opened up dual enrollment opportunities to more high school students. Students can take up to ten college courses that count for both high school and college credit, lowering the cost of college for them and their families.
We need to keep the best and brightest teachers in the classroom. Next to parents, talented and effective teachers are the most important factor in student achievement. New laws require tenure to be granted based on performance and merit, not years on the job.
YOUTHDuring the Lost Decade of 2000-2009, we lost 11.7% of our youth ages 25-34. I was one of those statistics. When I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1988 with my Masters in Aerospace Engineering degree, I found my dream job working on the International Space Station with Boeing in Alabama.
We need to have more dream jobs here in Michigan. In addition to the world's leading automotive manufacturers, Michigan is now home to leading information technology companies like Google and Liquid Web.
What's more is that we are creating an entrepreneurial environment in our state where our youth of all ages will have the opportunity to dream up the next great industry and convert it into reality. Now is a great time for our graduates to set up roots in their home state close to family and friends.
SENIORSIt's important that senior citizens are able to enjoy their golden years in safety and security.
New laws, including one I sponsored, help protect seniors from financial exploitation, neglect and mistreatment. The reforms strengthen penalties for criminals who embezzle from seniors and set up report requirements for suspected abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities.
VETERANSThe well-being of our veterans and service members is a special priority for me. One of my first acts as Senator was to help launch the Freedom Center, Michigan's permanent military hospitality lounge - all without taxpayer funds. Located across from Gate A43 in the McNamara Terminal of Detroit Metro Airport, this great facility offers a warm welcome and assistance to traveling service members, veterans and their families. Freedom Center has hosted more than 30,000 military personnel since it opened in late 2011. It is truly an honor to serve those who serve us.
As Chair of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, my colleagues and I have made investments to remove barriers to the receipt of benefits through the federal Veterans Affairs agency. Our goal is to reduce the time that it takes to receive the benefits that our veterans and their families have earned.
Starting this spring, free resident hunting and fishing licenses are available to any 100-percent disabled military veteran. I supported a new law to establish veterans treatment courts to serve veterans struggling with addiction and mental illness who get in trouble with the law. We owe our veterans so much; surely those experiencing troubled times deserve a helping hand and a second chance.
Michigan's recovery is off to a great start, but where do we go from here?
Over the last two years, the Legislature and the Governor have worked together to put in place several significant reforms. These changes have laid a foundation for job creation and education reform in our state. Our job now is to leverage these changes and use them as building blocks for even greater growth and prosperity in Michigan.
Michigan is well on its way to creating a healthy economic climate that brings new jobs to our state and better opportunities for our families.
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
(517) 373-7350 | SenPColbeck@senate.michigan.gov