Working together for a better Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently kicked off the fiscal year 2020 budget discussions by giving the governor’s annual budget presentation to the Legislature. It was interesting to hear the governor’s priorities in her State of the State speech, and in her recent presentation, we heard a bit about how she plans to fund some of them.

As the chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, I plan to work with the governor to continue discussions and find solutions to PFAS and water quality issues here in Michigan.

Since issues regarding groundwater emerged around the state, the Legislature has taken several measures and worked with health professionals and scientists to determine the best action that can be taken. Several state departments, local governments and other agencies have worked to test sites around the state and assess the size and scope of the issue.

I support the governor’s call for clean water and will work to fund efforts that continue analyzing drinking and surface waters as we search for solutions that ensure all Michigan residents have access to clean, safe water.

I can also get behind her call for increasing efforts that focus on improving the skills of our workforce.

Michigan has enjoyed a tremendous comeback and we need to look at ways that we can continue to foster talent as well as bring skilled workers into our state. Too much focus has been placed on college degrees over the last generation or two and our skilled trades are feeling it. My background is in excavating and I constantly hear from people in similar industries how they cannot find folks who know how to work with their hands. Plumbers, pipefitters, machinists, welders, heavy machinery operators, you name it, these industries are all struggling to find talented workers. Growing and diversifying Michigan’s workforce will only further improve the state’s economic climate.

While I think her presentation included a lot of good starting points, I am not convinced some of her suggestions are the best avenue forward.

I am not sold on going to Michigan taxpayers for another handout to fix the roads. The Legislature approved record road funding measures in recent years and I think we need to experience these efforts in full-effect before putting the highest fuel tax in the nation on the backs of Michigan residents.

I am also not willing to rely on prices at the pump staying low. An unexpected price jump in petroleum could price many Michiganders out of being able to drive. Such a drastic tax hike could negatively impact Michigan’s booming tourism industry as well as the comeback our economy has seen in recent years.

Eight years in a row, the Legislature and governor have approved the state budget well before the beginning of the fiscal year. As a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration in hopes of continuing that trend in 2019. It is now time to sit down at the table, work together, and make sure we come up with the best product for Michigan residents.

Sen. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, represents the 33rd state Senate District, which includes Clare, Gratiot, Isabella, Mecosta and Montcalm counties.