2017-03-02 / Columns

Up North Lawmakers Play Key Roles

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

Three northern Michigan lawmakers had prominent roles last week in the state House’s vote to back Governor Rick Snyder’s opposition to House Speaker Tom Leonard’s push to reduce the state’s 4.25% income tax without identifying potential spending cuts.

Gov. Snyder earlier said he had “a billion dollars worth of concerns over the long-term budget impact” of the bill sponsored by Representative Lee Chatfield (R-Levering). Well, he should.

Prominent in supporting Gov. Snyder’s position was Representative Larry Inman (R-Traverse City), a former local government officeholder who was concerned about what cuts the GOP speaker’s move would prompt.

Before the vote, Inman told The Detroit News: “I’ve got a lot of concerns about just walking blindly into this thing, and then letting them look like they’ve accomplished their goal but leaving the responsibility of deciding the cuts later.”

Most Democrats opposed the plan, but not Representative Scott Dianda of Calumet, who said in The Detroit News, “My people are starving.” He criticized “corporate welfare” spending while calling for “increased state revenue sharing for local governments.” A worthy goal.

Schuette Joins Other AGs on Great Lakes

Attorney General Bill Schuette has long joined with other Great Lakes AGs to urge the feds to do more for the lakes.

Last week he was one of 10 state AGs sending a letter to leaders of both U.S. Senate parties asking them to halt Great Lakes legislation that commercial shippers say will help them, while environmentalists contend will bring more invasive species.

The missive said the proposal to give authority for regulating discharge of ballast water primarily to the Coast Guard could “dramatically weaken defenses against aquatic invasive species.”

Currently, regulation of discharge of ballast water from commercial vessels authority is with the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with policies and laws enacted and enforced by individual states.

Stabenow and Huizenga Lobby Feds on Soo Locks

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) last week led a bicameral, bipartisan letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stressing “the importance of completing the study of the Soo Locks in an accurate and timely manner.”

Among other Michigan lawmakers signing the letter was new 1st District Representative Jack Bergman) (R-Watersmeet.

The letter said:

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is currently undertaking an economic reevaluation of a project to build a new navigation lock at the Sault Ste. Marie Locks complex in Michigan.

“This reevaluation is necessary due to erroneous assumptions later acknowledged by USACE in its original economic analysis. We write to ensure that USACE engages stakeholders and considers appropriate transportation alternatives to ensure an accurate benefit-cost ratio (BCR) analysis for the project, which is critically important to our states and the entire country.”

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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