A guest post from Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer:
It’s been one week since more than 3,000 of you came to the Michigan capitol to speak out against Republicans trying to silence the voices of women during a debate on our healthcare. One week since we stood together and proudly spoke the word they were so afraid to hear on the floor of the House of Representatives. One week since we sent a message that while we didn’t start this war on women, we most certainly have the power to win it!
In that week since our rally with Eve Ensler, the reaction has continued to be overwhelming. More than 50 statewide newspaper editorials have supported our efforts, a petition calling on Speaker of the House Jase Bolger to apologize has grown to nearly 50,000 signatures and even conservative strategists are publicly calling the House’s actions “dumbfounding” and a “crazy way to respond” to women exercising their right to speak up.
While so many voices have spoken out against what happened, there has remained a disappointing silence not only from those responsible for it, but from Governor Snyder.
Our Governor ran on being a business person, a “tough nerd” who wasn’t afraid to make difficult decisions and put politics aside to focus on doing what’s best for our state and our people. Unfortunately, when it comes to standing up to his fellow Republicans as they pass damaging and divisive legislation while equating their treatment of female legislators to “giving a kid a timeout” (as Rep. Wayne Schmidt so eloquently put it),the “tough” nerd instead only stands silent on the sidelines.
As a former CEO, Governor Snyder should know better than most the damage this type of behavior can have on our state’s bottom line. It sends a message that Michigan would rather focus on political games than rebuilding our economy. It tells female business leaders to look elsewhere to grow jobs because we don’t recognize their value. Worst of all, it tells our young men & women that is what now defines their home state and encourages them to relocate elsewhere as they graduate and begin their careers.
All Governor Snyder had to do is tell the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives that this behavior cannot and should not be tolerated. That if Michigan is to truly recover through what he calls “relentless positive action” we cannot have our legislature make Michigan the laughing stock of the nation by regressing us back into debates we thought had been settled 50 years ago.
Unfortunately, all we’ve heard from Governor Snyder are excuses and refusals to answer questions about what’s happened. When confronted about it by reporters last week, he’d only say “I hope they do resolve it.”
I would suggest to Governor Snyder that as the leader of our state, it’s his job to make sure this issue is resolved, not to stand idly by and hope people stop asking him about it.
It’s time for the Governor to be the leader he promised to be on the campaign trail. It’s time for the Governor to finally show that his toughness is more than a slogan and tell Speaker Bolger that he needs to apologize. It’s time for the Governor to understand that if he expects us to believe in his “relentless positive action,” he cannot stand silent as his Republican Representatives act more like they’re in a fraternity house than the State House.
I hope you’ll join me in telling Governor Snyder that we expect better from him than to watch this happen and tell us that “I hope they do resolve it.”
Thank you again to all of you who came to the rally last week and to the thousands more of you that voiced your support online and throughout your communities. It was an amazing event for me to be a part of and one that I hope is only the beginning of a much larger effort to restore our voices in the Michigan legislature.
In this year’s State of the State address, the Governor offered a lot less than he did last year in terms of smart, forward-thinking policies. My guess – this is probably a result of his failure to enact such proposals. A lot of the positives he took credit for, like the lowest unemployment rate since 2008 and the comeback of the auto industry, were the result of President Obama’s policies, not his.
Important proposals from last year’s address, such as universal access to preventative healthcare; prenatal through higher education support for Michigan’s students; and approval of the New International Trade Crossing all went unfulfilled in 2011. While he touched on some of them again this year, he failed to mention what he’ll do to ensure we see these changes this time around.
The items he highlighted as successes, like obliterating limits on charter schools and individual tax policies, were failures in my book. And the things he could have done on behalf of Michigan’s citizens, he either refused or could not do. Again, this year’s speech contained several positives, but the question remains if Gov. Snyder will be too constrained by his Republican counterparts in the Legislature.
The Governor reiterated his support for PA 4, the atrocious Emergency Manager law, claiming it is needed to help communities solve their own problems when, in fact, we know the opposite is true. He said he will focus on strengthening public safety, but his budget cuts to revenue sharing that municipalities rely on to provide those services flies in the face of funding police and fire protection. And he spoke about establishing a strong social safety net, amazingly ignoring the fact that his Republican colleagues passed – and he signed – the bills that dismantled support systems for Michiganders struggling in this economy, which include: elimination of the state earned income tax credit, drastic reductions in unemployment insurance, unrealistic parameters for obtaining worker’s compensation and much more.
The Gerber partnership on childhood obesity, creation of a regional transit authority and the establishment of a healthcare exchange, as prescribed by President Obama’s signature healthcare reform legislation, were three promising points in the speech.
I fully support keeping our children healthy. I have championed regional transit for four years in the Legislature and am glad to partner with Gov. Snyder on this economic development issue. And I couldn’t be happier to know that he is on board with President Obama’s healthcare reform initiative. I look forward to working with the Governor this year in passing the parts of his agenda that would help people, not his party’s wealthy benefactors. On the policies that I believe will harm the people of Michigan, I will continue to be a strong and vocal opposition leader.
The Senate returned from its summer recess today, and with recent news of higher unemployment and more children living in poverty throughout Michigan, it seemed that the Republican leadership’s first order of business would, or at least should, be to focus on helping families and creating jobs. Unfortunately, they instead chose to take the first opportunity they had to continue their attack on Michigan’s middle class.
The Senate Republicans led off today’s sessions by passing legislation that mandates strict limits on the benefits local public employers can offer their employees. This impacts school teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and countless other hardworking people in our local neighborhoods that are already working under difficult and often thankless situations. It strips the authority away from our local governments to make these decisions on their own, decisions that are often made to ensure they can recruit the best candidates for the job, and replaces that with a “Lansing Knows Best” policy of Government. Most importantly, it takes more money out of the pockets of our middle class to help pay for the tax cuts Republicans are handing out to big business.
As if that wasn’t bad enough for one day, Republicans also finalized legislation that places a strict 48 month cap on welfare benefits yet offers struggling families no means to get back into the workforce so that they no longer need access to those benefits. The result of this will simply mean 25,000 more families will be kicked off welfare this fall, making a bad situation where record numbers of Michigan children are living in poverty that much worse.
Unfortunately, neither of these actions should come as any real surprise. The Republican agenda throughout 2011 has slashed budgets for our schools, raised taxes on middle class families and seniors, and done absolutely nothing to create a single job or help those who need it.
If today was a sign that the Republicans’ anti-worker agenda is going to continue through the rest of the year, Michigan residents likely would have preferred it if they had stayed on summer break awhile longer
Governor Rick Snyder spent a great deal of time last year telling us that when he took office, “Job One is Jobs.” It was an idea that certainly sounded good, but unfortunately, it isn’t one that has translated into results.
News released today showed Michigan’s unemployment rate rising once again to 10.9%, the 3rd month in a row that Michigan’s unemployment rate has headed in the wrong direction. While the Governor may simply shrug that off as a short term problem, it is in fact a reversal of a trend started in 2009 that had Michigan’s unemployment steadily decreasing from a high point of 13.6%.
More troubling than the increase itself is the Governor’s lack of a plan of how to address it. Earlier this year he signed into law a massive tax rewrite, one that shifts a tremendous tax burden away from big business and put it squarely onto the backs of middle class families and seniors. While touting it as a plan to encourage job creation here in Michigan, the Governor was forced to acknowledge that he couldn’t promise that it would actually create a single job. Today, we’re seeing another sign that he was right, it won’t.
Instead of creating jobs, Michigan has reversed course and is now losing jobs. Instead of helping families get back on their feet, he signed legislation to slash unemployment benefits for those who need it most. Instead of moving Michigan forward, he is leaving Michigan’s middle class behind.
When the Governor promised us that job one was going to be jobs, maybe we just forgot to ask him whether he meant ‘more’ or ‘less’ of them.