Dexter’s state representative, Donna Lasinski, paid a visit to the Dexter Forum recently and shared a couple updates on the action up in Lansing.
On school funding:
“Right now it is budget season in Lansing,” she began going on to explain that Governor Snyder has put forth his budget. The House and Senate have also put forth their budgets. Since the Governor is Republican along with the leadership in the House and Senate, Donna told the Forum that she expects “all kinds of riffs on the same theme.” She added, “We don’t see a lot of diversions between the three budgets presented except around schools.”
The largest movable piece in the three proposals is the amount of funding for K-12 education. “I was very happy to see that the Governor proposed a $200-240 increase per student,” Donna said. “That gets just back to the $840 cut in school funding we experienced ten years ago with the recession.” She pointed out however that this is using real dollars with no adjustment for inflation.
There is resistance to the Governor’s proposed increase however. The House leadership “does not agree with that increase because it was achieved by cutting cyber school funding,” Lasinski explained. “Currently if you’re an online school, you get the exact same amount of funding per student as Dexter High School does with things like track, music, fields, and science labs.” The cut Governor Snyder has proposed is for online schools to get 75% of what a brick and mortar school gets per pupil.
Without the agreement to shift funding from online schools to the brick and mortar schools, there’s really no room in the budget to achieve the increase in per student funding that the Governor has proposed. This is the most contentious part moving forward. “So if you have an opinion on that, write some letters,” Donna encouraged.
On road repair:
Donna then spoke on the $175 million recently passed for funding road repair this summer. “I know there’s already going to be a lot of orange barrels around the Dexter area but there might be a few more,” she said. “This funding was achieved, not with new dollars, but leftovers from other funding. While it could mean even more construction barrels, it’s a good thing for us to move forward on roads.”
But there was a word of caution, which gave some insight into the state of our roads. Representative Lasinski told the group, “This does not mean that we will be improving our roads. It will be slowing the decline of our roads. The current statistic is that 41% of our roads rate poor to failing and that number is increasing every year. What we are trying to do is halt the decline.”
When asked what can be done to fully fund roads for the long term, Donna was blunt. “Pay taxes,” she said. “I’m going to be very frank here. There are some things that can only be fixed by throwing money at them. I have said in the past that we treat our state like renters, not owners. The way we’ve treated our infrastructure is abysmal. The Governor’s commissioned studies show that we’re looking at a $4.1 billion gap when it comes to funding our water and road infrastructure.”
When people argue against raising taxes, Lasinski says “I’m going to argue that I’ve had to pay two additional road taxes in the last two months to repair tires and rims. I would quite frankly rather pay an extra $37 into the state government’s hands to fix the roads than have to spend $981 dollars for repairs.”
On school violence:
Referring to the credible shooting threat at Whitmore Lake Public Schools on March 15, Representative Lasinski commented on the action taking place in Lansing by students concerned over the growing violence in schools:
“A number of school activists have been coming to the capital and really making their student voices heard. I have to say they are some of the most impressive young people that I have ever met. Well reasoned, civil, professional, organized. It has given me a lot of faith in the path of our civil discourse. If we take the lead from our high school students, things will improve. They really are very well thought out in what they’re doing, and the instruction they are receiving from their public schools. The reasoning they’re putting forth really makes me proud as a school advocate.”
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