Letter Calling for Greater Attention to Poor and Unemployed in State Budget

Dear Governor Snyder and Legislative Leaders:

We, the Roman Catholic Bishops of the seven Dioceses in Michigan, take this opportunity as proposals are being advanced by our legislators to craft the state budget, to call on you, our executive and legislative leaders, to carry out your responsibilities with greater attention to the needs of the poor, the unemployed and other vulnerable persons who make up a large part of the citizens of Michigan. It is a well-known fact that a very clear indicator of the moral strength of any society is in the way its neediest citizens are treated. As such, budget priorities reflect significant moral choices. As moral leaders of the citizens of our state, we have reasonable cause for serious concern based on the Fiscal Year 2012 and Projected Fiscal Year 2013 Executive Budget Recommendation, along with proposals that are currently under consideration in the Legislature.

Various policy proposals addressed in committee and others that have been put forward, if enacted, would adversely impact the state’s destitute and working poor population and will likely create additional hardships for those for whom we are collectively responsible—you as elected leaders, and we, the spiritual leaders, of the people of this state. Those proposals include:

While this is not an exhaustive list of proposals that merit a renewed attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable, it does represent three areas where the state can uphold its responsibility to maintain policies that serve “the least of these.” Just as we have grave concern that shared sacrifice will unfairly burden those already suffering, we are mindful of the state’s poor economic health over the past decade. In this regard, we are prepared to be a part of the solution.

For decades the Catholic Church has operated with professionalism and sound ethical principles a vast and effective network of social services. With statutory changes these agencies, which exist with a mandate to uphold the dignity of every human person, can be better equipped to accept additional foster care, adoption and other social services—thereby reducing the state’s responsibility and helping to eliminate associated costs.

As the state budget debate continues, please know that we, through the staff of the Michigan Catholic Conference, stand ready to assist in your efforts to reform and reinvent Michigan while at the same time ensuring the dignity of all persons in our state, especially the poor and vulnerable.

With deep appreciation for the difficult choices ahead of you, and with ardent prayers for God to bring wisdom and guidance to your deliberations, we are