Guest opinion: Really Mr. Bumstead?

By Ed Haynor

Special to the Star

A recent article in the Star authored by State Representative Jon Bumstead, “Goals and priorities in 2011,” is in need of response.

Mr. Bumstead states that many legislative goals were accomplished in 2011 regarding state government restructuring, reforms, etc. Just because more government intrusion and special interest legislation was enacted, it doesn’t mean what was concocted was in the best interest of citizens of the 100th District. In my opinion, much of the legislation supported by Bumstead, favors special interest groups, many outside his legislative district, at the expense of middle class families, retired persons, school children and the poor.

As I recall, Bumstead, campaigned on the following themes: jobs, jobs, jobs; maintaining local control; and no new taxes. As we start the new year, let us take a look at how Bumstead rates on his campaign promises as well as respond to some of the points he made in his recent article.

Bumstead says that, “we have already seen the results (of job creation) in the 100th District.” Oh really? Where are those jobs? If new jobs have been created through the efforts of our esteemed state representative, he has a responsibility to his constituents to let us all know where those new jobs are. In relation to jobs, the unemployment percentage rate has gone down minimally over the past year, but state officials attribute this percentage drop to the state losing population and fewer unemployed workers actively seeking employment.

Speaking of unemployment, Bumstead voted in favor of reducing those in need of unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks.

Bumstead voted in favor of reducing workman’s compensation insurance benefits. This legislation signed by the governor reduces the amount a worker can be compensated if injured on the job. The legislation does this by changing the definition of “disability.” It would take into account what jobs an injured worker could do in figuring out their benefits even if the job didn’t exist.

Let’s say that a construction worker was injured on the job, was paid $20 per hour, but because of the disability, could no longer do this type of work, but the worker could work at a fast food restaurant paying $8 an hour. Workers compensation benefits now are based on $12 (the difference between $20 and $8.) not the $20 per hour wage rate the injured worker was making.

The new law does exempt police and fire department employees from some of the new workers’ compensation rules. Certainly, police and fire department workers do hazardous work, but why are we now treating some workers differently from others? I thought our constitution guarantees equality. In my opinion, we should not treat workers differently when they’ve been injured on the job.

Bumstead even voted against tax credits for certain charitable gifts, food banks and other previously eligible tax credits to community nonprofits. Killing charitable tax credits that benefit the poor is bad public policy especially considering the state of our economy.

Bumstead praises the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax. Let’s not forget this cut of $1.8 billion was done mostly on the backs of public school children, taxpayers, and retirees with no requirements from businesses to create jobs.

Bumstead supported an average per pupil cut of approximately $470 per student in local school budgets. This cut to our children’s future, in part, allowed big business to gain this $1.8 billion dollar windfall.

Also contributing to this windfall is a tax increase many citizens will experience in 2012 by a reduction of their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as well as persons living on a pension in which many will see their pension taxed for the first time in Michigan history. In 2012, most Michigan citizens will be blind-sided by these tax increases.

This increase in taxes the middle class will experience does not bode well for small business owners because the less money people have in their pocket, the less they have to spend. Unfortunately, many persons won’t experience the tax increases until they prepare their taxes in 2013. Boy, will they be surprised. Of course, Bumstead is counting on you not figuring this out until 2013, enabling his perceived re-election in November 2012. Citizens need to hold Bumstead responsible for his votes to increase taxes, when he said in his 2010 campaign, that he wouldn’t vote to increase taxes.

Many legislators including Bumstead have created dictatorial rule by allowing emergency managers to govern schools and municipalities who are in financial stress – stress caused in part by the state legislature cutting revenue sharing and education budgets. Emergency managers can cancel contracts, fire employees, sell public property, and take over our schools and local governments, without a public vote. So much for democracy and local control! Some might suggest that if a public entity is near bankruptcy, that something needed to be done. I don’t disagree with that, but eliminating democracy and local control, in my opinion, is much too extreme.

Bumstead states that, “I made it a priority to find solutions that help government and our communities run efficiently.”

Oh yeah?

Here’s just one example of Bumstead’s efficiency model. I had the opportunity to publicly testify in Lansing at a House Education Committee meeting, debating the merits of expanding charter schools (Senate Bill 618) on Nov. 29, 2011. I testified against this legislation. Bumstead supported the legislation; the legislation passed and was signed by the governor.

The new law increases costs on taxpayers and will duplicate school buildings and districts throughout Michigan.

How’s that possible?

Here’s how. For instance in Newaygo County, residents have approved bond issues since about 2000, to build new school buildings and renovate older buildings at a cost of just over $200 million. Bumstead ignored this investment and voted in favor of creating unlimited charter schools. New charter schools can now be established anywhere, anytime without a perceived need, and without a public vote.

Charters now can be created without any proven track record of success that allows operations by out-of-state, out-of-country corporations, therefore, outsourcing more Michigan jobs.

I can’t imagine the rage when taxpayers realize they will be paying off bond funds for public school buildings, many until 2030 and using school aid funds in the creation of corporate charter schools. And because the state will be using school aid funds to create corporate schools, yes you guessed it, less school aid funds will be available for the operations of the traditional public schools that Newaygo County citizens have invested over $200 million dollars in. How’s that for Bumstead finding solutions to run government efficiently? And they named the legislation, the “parent empowerment bill.” Can you imagine that?

Many charter schools tap into the school aid fund for corporate profit and building space because they don’t have the same expenses traditional public schools are mandated with. I recently sent an email to Bumstead, in which I suggested that all rules and regulations of operating both our local schools and charter schools be the same.

I gave him one major example of the operations inequity between our local schools and charter schools, that being the costs of retirement. When preparing a yearly budget, our local schools have to budget an additional 25 percent for personnel costs to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). Most charter schools do not have to pay into MPSERS. A reader might ask, why does this inequity exist?

There are two primary reasons. One, in 1994 when Proposal A was passed, this allowed the state to abdicate it’s responsibilities toward public school retirement for state educators and made the local schools bear this cost.

Secondly, with mostly republican support, the legislature created loopholes in the retirement system such as allowing charter schools not contributing their fair share of retirement costs. Oh, by the way, Bumstead never responded to my email suggesting that traditional public schools and charter schools be treated on an equal basis. I hope readers pay attention to this massive inequity, whereby Newaygo County residents have invested heavily in their children’s and grandchildren’s future, Bumstead apparently either did not have the intelligence to understand the implications of his unqualified support for charter schools or the backbone to stand up to special interests, jeopardizing the community’s $200 million dollar investment on behalf of school children.

Bumstead’s article regarding legislative changes in 2011 lacked much detail.

Readers can see why because he doesn’t want you to know how he voted on the more critical issues of our time.

If citizens desire to see more of Bumstead’s voting record, or any other state or nationally elected legislator, they can use the Internet and go to Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan website, at votesmart.org.