As a County Commissioner, I did a weekly blog that talked about what happened that week. I was able to do this for many years.
Now that I am in the House of Representatives, I would like to continue that tradition. I will do my best to publish something as stuff happens in the Legislature. This can be a bit complicated, though. Rep. Joan Bauer, who I have the honor to follow in this position, maintained a great list and I will continue to email that list. I have a great list from my campaign. I also have a great list of friends on facebook both on my personal and political pages. As such, I am trying to accomplish updating all of these without too much duplication. If I hit you 2 or 3 times, my apologies and I will try to consolidate all of these. But that may take a few weeks. Bear with me.
So, for the first update…
There were two big events last week. The first was the swearing in of the 110 members of the House of Representatives. It was very exciting for me, as I officially began my journey that will last for the next two years. It was a ceremonial day and everything went smoothly. I will address the one controversial vote…I and 49 of my fellow Democrats voted for Jase Bolger for Speaker. Not because I approve of what he did last session (either the last minute votes that had no public testimony, or his actions with the scandal with Rep. Schmidt), but because the Republicans were voted into the majority and he is the person that they selected. I appreciate his comments upon becoming Speaker about bi-partisanship and hope that will be actions and not just words. He has agreed to respect the rights of the minority and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to start.
The second big event was the first revenue estimating conference. This looks at the budget numbers and trends and projects the dollars that the state will have to spend in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The initial budget numbers will come from this conference as the budget begins to be worked on, then will be updated after the May budget estimating conference.
I was able to be part of that meeting and asked questions, including if we are creating high-payinng jobs or low-paying jobs (there was no answer, but they said they have a report on this). Here is what we heard…
General Fund/General Purpose (GF-GP) revenues for the 2012-13 FY, which began in October, were estimated to be about $8.79 billion, a drop of 5.1 percent from last year. While School Aid Fund (SAF) revenues are expected to be around $11.12 billion (a 2.3 percent increase from last year), that number falls short of last May's forecasts by 0.4 percent. Unfortunately, we're seeing that the significant changes to Michigan's tax policy that have been enacted since Governor Snyder took office continue to have an impact on our state's tax revenue (in a negative way).
As many of you know, Michigan is starting its fourth year of economic recovery after a nearly decade-long recession. Although the national economy has (generally) been improving at a modest pace, it has recently decelerated over the uncertainty surrounding the federal budget, foreign weakness, debt negotiations, and the debt-ceiling decline-- fiscal issues that many predict will affect our state's economic growth through much of 2013.
On the bright side, our country's housing sector and light motor vehicle sales continue to gain (or maintain) momentum. Michigan's personal income is expected to modestly increase for the next three calendar years, inflation is expected to increase (again, modestly), and our unemployment rate is forecasted to decrease to 7.2 percent in calendar year 2015. Much of Michigan's recent job growth was led by gains in manufacturing, professional and businesses services, and health care and social assistance. It should come as no surprised that employment in the construction sector fell by 5,100 workers and government employment has declined by 3,800 workers over the past year. Presenters pointed out that even though we've managed to grow jobs since 2010, growth has been very subdued and employment remains significantly below our peak in January 2000.
As today's presenters noted, we still have quite a ways to go in our economic recovery as a state, but we continue (and should continue) to make slow, steady progress in the coming years. I look forward to playing an important role in the Legislature's budget-related activity and welcome you to get in touch with your reactions and thoughts surrounding today's Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference news. To view the House and Senate Fiscal agency's reports, be sure to visit the below links:
House Fiscal Agency Report
Senate Fiscal Agency Report
This week Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his State of the State, and I am looking forward to hear what he has to say. I am sure you will hear about it, but I will give my thoughts at the end of the week.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts!