In this issue of Lansing Update:
- MCC Questions Governor’s Support for Human Cloning
- Tax Increases, Budget Cuts Recommended to Solve Economic Woes
While the crux of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s February 6th 2007 State of the State Address concentrated on moving the state past its dismal economy, the administration also continued its staunch opposition to pro-life issues as the governor again vocalized her support for embryonic stem cell research. Rather than calling attention to progress made with adult stem cells, Granholm told the state her supporters would seek to put the issue of embryonic research on the 2008 general election ballot should the legislature fail to act.
Said Governor Granholm: “We can also improve the quality of health care in Michigan and give our economy a boost by removing the barriers to embryonic stem cell research, which could help thousands of people afflicted with life threatening and debilitating diseases.
It will also energize our emerging life sciences industry in Michigan. Today, Michigan is at the back of the pack when it comes to allowing this important research. It’s time to act on the issue. I can assure you, if the Legislature does not allow this research, the people will be taking it to the ballot.”
Michigan Catholic Conference immediately responded to the Governor by issuing the following statement:
“Investing in our people is a critical tool necessary to move the state forward, but how can we invest in people if one issue for which the governor is advocating prevents scores of individuals from entering our state in the first place? Cloning and killing human embryos represents an ideology that will not move our state forward; rather, it will reduce human life to a devalued commodity merely created and destroyed in a laboratory for experimental purposes.
We cannot fail Michigan residents, and we strongly urge the governor to abandon a severely flawed ideology and work with those individuals and organizations who are seeking financial and political support for the amazing research advances that are being made on a daily basis with adult stem cells.”
The legislation to which the governor referenced, Senate Bill 52, would, in part, legalize the cloning process known as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer. SB 52 also decriminalizes the practice of destroying human embryos for research purposes.
Former Senate minority leader and current Budget Director Bob Emerson and State Treasurer Bob Klein this week presented to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees Governor Granholm’s 2008 budget recommendations, which combines tax increases with budget cuts to eliminate the state’s nearly $820 million budget deficit.
Included in the budget plan is an additional $178 for each K–12 student in the state, which raises the per pupil foundation allowance to $7,286, along with a 2.5 percent increase for the state’s universities. To the Michigan Catholic Conference’s great concern, the Governor for the fifth consecutive year has proposed eliminating the Michigan Tuition Grant [Link no longer available —Ed.], which helps low-income students attend one of the state’s 37 private institutions of higher education, which also includes Catholic schools. Each of the last five years, however, the legislature has restored the funds.
Those tax increases recommended by the Governor include:
- A 2 percent sales tax on services, such as haircuts, concert, sporting event and movie tickets, accounting and attorney fees, dry cleaning, etc,
- A 5 cent per pack increase on cigarettes,
- A ten percentage point increase in the liquor tax markup,
- A tax on estates worth more than $2 million, and
- Eliminating nine “loopholes” that currently exist in the tax code.
Aside from monitoring education programs such as the Michigan Tuition Grant, the Michigan Catholic Conference pays close attention in the budget process to funding priorities for the two state departments that assist the poor and vulnerable—the Department of Community Health and the Department of Human Services.
Regarding the Department of Community Health, the Governor has proposed a 2 percent increase, bringing the 2007–08 appropriation to $11.5 billion, with 90 percent of the general fund dollars funding Medicaid benefits. Of particular interest in the DCH budget is the inclusion of some $100 million from the federal government to help cover the cost of the Governor’s Michigan First Health Care Plan, which is designed to bring health care insurance to some 500,000 Michigan residents who currently lack care.
The administration is waiting for the federal government to grant a waiver that would release federal funds needed to help implement the program. Once the federal government signs off there is a required 90 days for the plan to be submitted to the legislature and enacted. The administration expects the federal government to sign off on the plan sometime in the spring, with it coming online in 2008.
While the Department of Human Services will receive additional funding for such important programs as early childhood learning ($200 million) and child welfare funding ($40 million), the department will also see some $34 million cut from its budget. Some of those cuts include the following:
- Family Independence Program: $6.6 million,
- Adult Foster Care, children’s welfare and daycare licensure programs: $123,400,
- Day care services: $13 million, and
- Foster care payments: $1.2 million
The rest of the cuts come from teen parenting programs, the Black Child and Family Institute, youth in transition funding and several administrative projects.
The Governor’s 2007–08 budget calls for a total of $310 million in budget cuts, the largest share being a net $92 million from the Department of Corrections, which would be raised by expanding the prisoner re-entry program, the increased use of parole and clemency and shorter sentences for non-violent offenders.
“One of our choices is we need to decide who we are afraid of and who we are mad at,” Patricia Caruso, Director of the Department of Corrections, said of the proposed policy changes. “Are we mad enough to spend $33,000 a year on prisoners until they die or serve the last days of their sentence or are there other ways to deal with them?”