Economy

Helping Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs Thrive: I manage a small business with our family farm, so I know firsthand what a challenge it can be. With continuing trends in globalization and endless corporate consolidation, it’s essential we empower small businesses to thrive, and provide the support they need from our state government. It’s crucial to lower the state tax burden on small businesses, freeing up revenue to help them grow, and empower them to pay living wages to their teams. 

One approach to this could be enacting a Small Business Deduction of 75% of up to $250,000, to offset the current 4.95% flat tax and the 0.8% modified business gross tax, which would free more money to be reinvested into the business and help pay fair wages. When small businesses can prosper, our main streets can blossom again, too. 

Economic Opportunity in Environmental Responsibility: The need to mitigate changing weather patterns is urgent—and we are fortunate to be alive at a time when making the adjustments we need can also help our communities grow, and help our working people earn good wages. 

Community solar power initiatives offer some attractive possibilities: depending on project size and the local tax rate, over the 30-year expected life of a community solar project, total tax revenue could be hundreds of thousands of dollars for the surrounding area. And even better, anyone in the electric service territory of a community solar project would be eligible to become a subscriber. This provides meaningful long-term bill savings for everyone who participates, at the same time as environmental benefits. 

Rooftop solar customers also benefit from “net metering,” a billing mechanism that credits system owners for the electricity they add to the grid, along with the energy savings from their system’s own electricity production. There’s no question that renewable energy can be a win-win if done right: a benefit to the economy, and more importantly, a future that we’d be proud to hand to our grandchildren.

Unions: Like so many people in this area of Michigan, my family history includes multiple generations of auto workers. I know how important organized labor is to supporting and upholding workers’ rights. Since the attacks on the middle class for the benefit of the wealthy began in earnest over 40 years ago,  we have seen the systematic degradation of unions. Not coincidentally, we have also felt the erosion of the middle class: stagnant wages for us, while corporate profits and share prices soared and CEO salaries went through the roof. We need strong unions to protect the rights of workers. 

Industry, Workforce, and Economic Development: We need to continue to develop our Michigan industries, to make them vibrant again, while keeping plans for the future firmly in mind. Initiatives like the new GM battery plant in Lansing stimulate the local economy by creating jobs and in-state contracts for Michigan firms and thousands of workers. Increasing electric car manufacturing is going to bring jobs while cutting down on harmful pollutants. 

The federal Infrastructure law is already starting to provide new jobs, in areas like roadways and broadband internet, that are crucial to our quality of life. Michigan state government, specifically, is a national leader in increasing broadband access, and may be the first state in the nation to reach 100% access. 

No matter which side of the political line you stand on, the vast majority of the citizens of Mid-Michigan will agree: We need to continue with more efforts to bring manufacturing back to our state. Decades of corporate greed have outsourced job after job. The results have been devastating to our communities—leading to multiple factory closures, and forcing us to commute further to work or reinvent ourselves in new careers, which are easier said than done. 

Labor unions and our state government have a huge role to play in improving our quality of life, providing the skilled labor and incentives for companies to establish themselves in this district. Traditional manufacturing is important, but it’s only part of the puzzle. The tech industry should also be a focus, and we need a voice in the State Legislature that will advocate for the policies that will make it easier for entrepreneurs and existing tech companies to make use of what the 71st District has to offer.

Agriculture: Have you ever seen the bumper sticker: “Farming is EVERYONE’S bread and butter”? It’s funny and it’s true. Farming, like every other industry over the past century, has undergone momentous change. We have seen mechanization and technology, coupled with consolidation, increase farm sizes, so that now a tiny sliver of all Americans produce the food essential to everyone’s survival. And here in Michigan, largely because of the Great Lakes, our state is second only to California in terms of the variety of crops our farmers grow.

We need to continue to incentivize environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices, and we need to continue to avoid overburdening farmers with regulations. 

For example, my family farm has been certified in the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) since 2014: a voluntary program that recognizes farmers for implementing practices that protect the environment and their land. MAEAP helps farmers adopt cost-effective practices that reduce erosion and runoff into ponds, streams, and rivers. This, in turn, helps us comply with state and federal laws. It’s a great way to incentivize environmentally sound practices without adding cumbersome government regulations. 

I also support programs that empower startup, small, and minority farmers; although these are typically  implemented at the federal level via the USDA, I’m interested in exploring the possibilities at the state level. Small, localized farms, especially in urban or remote rural areas, can provide solutions to the problem of “food deserts,” where people don’t have access to plentiful, healthy foods. 

Through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the Legislature can do more to make Michigan stronger in agricultural job creation, improve sustainability, and support the quality of agricultural products that flow from the state we are so proud of.  

At the bottom line, we must have successful farms for everyone’s survival, and I’ll always be thinking of and listening to my brother and sister farmers while serving in the state government.