THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
07th October, 2010 0
The 94th Congressional District covers the areas of Albee, Birch Run, Blumfield, Chesaning, Frankenmuth, James, Maple Grove, Saginaw Township, St. Charles Township, Swan Creek Township, and Taymouth & Thomas Townships in Saginaw County.
On Tuesday, November 4th, voters in these areas will decide their State Representative in the Michigan Legislature in a contest that pits Democratic challenger Vince Mosca against incumbent Republican Ken Horn.
Vince Mosca was born in 1968 and is a High School teacher at the Saginaw County Transition Academy. He is a 1987 graduate of Douglas MacArthur High School in Saginaw Township and earned his Associate of Arts Degree from Delta College in 1989, with a B.A. in English at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1991. He also has 18 hours towards his M.A. in Educational Leadership at Central Michigan University.
Kenneth B. Horn was born in 1959 and currently serves as the State Representative of the 94th District. His prior civic involvement includes 14 years on the Saginaw County Commission; Vice-President for the Saginaw Community Foundation; member of the Michigan Travel Commission (appointed in 2002, through which he served on the White House Conference on Tourism. Ken is also a member of Leadership Saginaw; Saginaw Transportation Authority Regional Services (STARS); Saginaw Arts Enrichment Commission and is a member of the Frankenmuth Rotary; many local Chambers of Commerce and other local volunteer organizations.
He is currently serving as ranking Republican on the House Energy and Technology Committee; was appointed Chair of 2007 statewide Task Force on Tourism and Chair of the 2009 House Republican Task Force Initiative. He was elected Assistant Minority Whip during first term in the Legislature; was nominated by colleagues to the Midwestern Council of State Governments Leadership Conference for which only two members from each state are selected; and is a Fellow with the Michigan Political Leadership Program and Saginaw Leadership Program.
The Review submitted several questions to each of these candidates on pivotal issues facing both our state and region, requesting that the candidates attempt to limit their responses to 150 words. We trust you will find this exchange both informative and helpful in determining the candidate best capable of representing your interests in Lansing.
Review: What are the personal qualities and your position on key issues such as the economy, our environment, and health care, that you feel cause you to stand out from your opponent?
Mosca: Michigan needs to stabilize its income to meet revenue needs. One way to put people back to work is by encouraging investment in green jobs and alternative energy sources. Green industries appear to be the wave of the future, and Michigan needs to become a leader in this developing industry.
It would also be nice if the federal government would step up and help our state’s people and its economy by increasing tariffs on foreign automobiles. Because of unfair trade policies, it is very hard to sell an American car overseas, but quite easy to get foreign cars into the United States.
As for the environment, we must protect the Great Lakes, which comprise our state’s greatest treasure for their water supply and fishing and recreation.
With health care the expenses continue to rise. This puts pressure on individuals and companies. We have got to rein in health care costs.
Horn: I've lived and worked in Saginaw County for 30 years, and with my wife Veronica, raised our family here.
I recognize that government needs to step out of the way so that free enterprise can flourish. In our schools we need to teach more innovation and self-reliance and we need to apply the Henry Ford model to new advanced technologies to grow Michigan out of this recession.
I will continue to protect our Great Lakes from threats like water diversion and Asian Carp. I will also continue to protect Saginaw County families from the early release of prisoners. I won't allow anyone to offer you the false choice that the only way to pay for our kid's education is by making our streets less safe.
I still believe that Michigan's biggest challenges can be met with common sense solutions. We need to get back to basics in government. We need to keep our families safe, make our streets drivable, and ensure our kids a solid and competitive education
Review: Do you offer any proposals for education reform, either at the K-12 or Higher Education levels?
Horn: I introduced the Family Dignity Act, which discourages truancy and encourages participation in Birth to Five programs. I also supported K-12 education reforms to strengthen our education system. In addition, I'm working to restore the commitment we gave to students and their families in the Michigan Promise Scholarship by introducing House Bill 5376. This summer I was proud to vote to restore funding that was cut from schools last year. We also created a reserve fund to protect schools from mid-year cuts in the future, and I voted to protect that fund from being raided by the administration.
Education is one of my priorities. It is extremely important, but means little if our number one export out of Michigan is our college educated kids. It's imperative that we provide good paying jobs that are worthy of our graduates
Mosca: We need to finance education. When we were kids we didn’t have to worry about school budgets being cut continuously. There were not thirty-eight 9th graders in classrooms a generation ago. Students and their parents didn’t have to pay for kids to play sports. Recent teaching graduates at Saginaw Valley State University didn’t have to necessarily look out of state to enter the teaching profession.
This all needs to stop.
Here is what I propose: Voters need to be encouraged to amend the state constitution through a ballot proposal. The ballot proposal would ask voters to approve raising state income taxes on the wealthiest among us, to bring Michigan’s tax structure in line with other states. Of the 43 states that have an income tax, Michigan has the 7th most regressive structure. We need a graduated income tax.
We also need to spend less money on incarcerating our fellow citizens. We currently spend more on punishing people than on educating them. We have almost 50,000 people in Michigan state prisons at a cost of about $30,000 per year per prisoner. About half of those in prison are locked up for non-violent offences.
What are ‘non-violent’ offenses? Typically, crimes deemed to be in violation of American and Michigan ‘Drug War’ statutes. People sell the drugs deemed to be illegal because they are poor. They need money. As Central Foundry and The Gun Plant and other GM plants in Saginaw and throughout the State have been shuttered, we have replaced those jobs with nothing. The lack of economic opportunity, along with bad choices and bad luck, have driven thousands into selling the drugs deemed to be illegal.
The ‘Drug War’ started out as a war on the poor and it still is. But now it is also a war on the middle class, because the middle class can’t afford to imprison so many of the poorest among us. While the prison/industrial complex and their lobbyists have greatly benefited from this cruel war on drugs, the rest of us have suffered because we can’t afford to pay for it. It says in the Bible that “we are our brother’s keeper” and we are not at all adhering to that wise tenant when we imprison so many.
In 1972 there were 350,000 imprisoned throughout the U.S. Today there are more than 2 million. We have more people in prison than Russia and China do combined! This is all directly attributable to the drug war. And it has got to stop.
We also need to change the state’s fiscal year to run from July 1 – July 1. As it stands, school districts finalize their budgets in the summer, start school in September, but don’t know how much money they will receive from Lansing until October. Forty-six states have fiscal years, which run from July 1- July 1. We need to do this as well.
We need to spend more on K-12 and community college and university education, and less on making the prison/industrial complex wealthy.
Review: Would you make any changes in the state tax structure or state budget to prevent our annual budget crisis of recent years?
Mosca: Voters have to approve a graduated income tax. The legislature is prohibited from doing so by the state constitution. I whole-heartedly support raising state income taxes on the wealthiest Michigan residents. There are also corporate tax loopholes that need to be closed.
Horn: Yes. We need to reinvent Michigan's government. We need a simpler tax policy that works. We need a regulatory structure that doesn't bury families who own small businesses in red tape. We need to lower our total cost of government so that we're competitive with other states.
I will continue my work to eliminate the personal property tax, reduce and simplify the Michigan Business Tax (MBT), and to eliminate the MBT 22% surcharge on small businesses.
Regarding the budget, I've co-sponsored two separate pieces of legislation that would require a balanced budget by June 1st or politicians don't get paid. I support a two-year budget so that state departments and schools know what they have to deal with. I support a plan to constitutionally require the Legislature not to spend over 96% of the state's projected revenue.
We need to build a budget stabilization fund to smooth out spending in schools and other essential programs. With smarter management we can get off this wild budget roller coaster that Michigan has been on.
Review: Are you in favor of the proposal to convene a new Constitutional Convention in Michigan. And if so, why?
Horn: I do not support a new Constitutional Convention; the opportunity for political mischief is too great and the process of electing 148 delegates is clumsy and expensive. Anyone who followed the Saginaw City Charter Commission and its struggle to rewrite the charter for the City of Saginaw will understand the hazards of a statewide Constitutional Convention. Many advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle oppose a Constitutional Convention, including the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Every Constitutional amendment deserves the highest degree of open discussion and debate, and shouldn't be left to the hallways of Lansing. We've had great success in recent years in amending the constitution with individual proposals on the statewide ballot. Asking Michigan's citizens to vote individually on changes to the Constitution strikes me as a much more democratic process.
Mosca: While we need to make some changes, and a Constitutional Convention would make it easier to change the Constitution, a Constitutional Convention could also put the entire state structure at risk. We are living in interesting times and bad times. I think it could be dangerous to have a Constitutional Convention in bad times. I therefore lean towards opposing a Constitutional Convention. Maybe things will change by next year, though.
Review: A State of Michigan mineral rights auction last May opened an unprecedented amount of acreage to the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas – a little regulated and immensely controversial technique that has been linked to massive ground water contamination in states ranging from Colorado to Kentucky.
More acreage is set for auction in October.
Current legislation exempts regulation of this practice, as well as identifying the chemicals, from regulation under The Halliburton Loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act. While the State of Michigan only reaped $178 million in revenue on the May action, the Encana Corporation reaped net income of $1.8 billion on revenue of $11.1 billion in 2007.
Are you in favor of placing a moratorium on these land auctions and would you support legislation to either ban hydraulic fracturing or make the companies utilizing the practice pay for 24-hour monitoring by State regulators, or impose a moratorium on this practice as other states like New York and Pennsylvania have recently done?
Mosca: Water supplies have been disrupted. The corporations doing the fracturing have concealed chemicals and these have been known to be harmful. This process is hurting aquifiers and the water supply.
And who knows how much damage is being done?
This needs to be regulated much more closely. So, of course, I favor a moratorium.
I also support companies paying for the regulating being done by state inspectors. It seems to me that the Encana Corporation, like so many U.S. corporations, has been too busy stuffing money in its pockets. (Editor’s Note: Former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard is on the Board of Directors at Encana).
Horn: As the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Technology Committee, I've studied the issue of energy exploration very carefully. I would not favor a moratorium on land auctions. We are rapidly reaching our goal of $500 million dollars in the Natural Resources Trust Fund and will soon begin to meet our obligation for the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund based on revenues collected from our natural resources. The sale of leases and royalties play a large role in reopening our parks and restoring our state lands.
"Hydro-fracking" is an emerging technology and should be monitored very carefully, and I believe our MDNRE is doing just that. As our families struggle with rising gas and electric costs, we have an opportunity to put an end to higher winter heating bills and put Michigan on a path to energy independence.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)