Huuki votes to support budget, highlights vets increases
State Rep. Matt Huuki cast his vote Wednesday in support of the state’s budget, citing fiscal accountability and careful investment.
“Thanks to some difficult, but necessary cuts last year, the state is finally beginning to grow again, and this budget reflects that growth,” said Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine. “Unemployment is down, personal income is up, and jobs are being created throughout the state. As a result, the state is experiencing a small surplus.”
However, Huuki said it is not the time to push the envelope by layering on new expenditures.
“We need to remain accountable, we need to pay down the state’s debt, continue to reform spending where we can and build up a safety net in case of future economic difficulties,” Huuki said. “Taxpayers deserve diligence and a thoughtful budgetary process. If we’re going to spend, let’s make wise investments.”
Some investments were of particular interest to the Western U.P. lawmaker, including a total $20 million more for veterans than last year’s budget. The state will spend $1.6 million to make improvements at the D. J. Jacobetti Veterans’ Home in Marquette and will contain millions of dollars in funding to organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, giving them the resources to assist more veterans in enrolling in federal benefit programs.
The budget also includes $1.7 million to help these veteran service organizations collaborate with county veterans counselors to create online systems, allowing veterans to use the Internet to apply for benefits and to establish outreach programs that will help veterans on college campuses such as Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech.
“We’re looking to improve veterans’ affairs in Michigan, and this budget makes big strides,” Huuki said. “I am proud to support a budget that brings more to those that have made great sacrifices for our freedoms.”
Huuki recently announced a series of forums which will allow military veterans in the Upper Peninsula to address state officials directly, including Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Ray Franz, and Deputy Director for the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, Jason Allen.
Huuki’s Veterans Symposium will begin on April 27 from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern Standard Time at the Baraga Readiness Center, located at 1005 N Superior Ave. in Baraga, and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Central Standard Time at VFW Post 3673, located at 605 W. Lead St. in Bessemer.
Huuki also will meet with veterans in Iron River on April 28, from 10 a.m. to noon Central Standard Time. The Iron River event will be held at the Iron River Readiness Center on 9 West Franklin St.
Pettalia, McBroom propose restoring juvenile facilities funding
One year ago, state Rep. Peter Pettalia contacted the governor and Legislature’s subcommittee budget leaders with a plan to keep all three of Michigan’s juvenile justice facilities operating, despite cuts in Department of Human Services spending.
Now, the Presque Isle lawmaker along with Rep. Ed McBroom co-sponsored a budget amendment to restore funding in the 2013 budget to keep the youth programs open and protect local community jobs.
“Michigan’s juvenile centers provide the state flexible options for cost, distance, gender, treatment and security,” Pettalia said. “The centers remain a good investment of taxpayer dollars for the best opportunity to help youths get back on track and lead productive, successful lives.”
The Shawono Center in Grayling is in Pettalia’s 106th House District. McBroom’s 108th House District is home to the Bay Pines Center in Escanaba.
“Restructuring state government for efficiency and effectiveness for the future success of Michigan residents must include programs that give a chance at rehabilitation for juveniles so they can become responsible state citizens,” McBroom said. “I’m hopeful that as the budget negotiations continue with the governor and Senate we will find a solution that maintains these programs.”
The lawmakers’ proposal did not gain sufficient House support to be added to the budget bill. House Bill 5365 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Foster fights to maintain resident prison officers
Eliminating resident unit officers from the state department of corrections’ classification of prison guards will increase the danger risk for inmates and workers within Michigan’s prison facilities state Rep. Frank Foster said Wednesday, as he introduced a legislative amendment to reinstate the job.
“Resident unit officers form an unparalleled relationship with the prisoners that helps them enforce the rules and maintain order,” said Foster, R-Petoskey. “Cutting these corners is at the detriment to guards and prisoners, and is acting penny wise and pound foolish.
“This decision, as well as the recent decision to eliminate our perimeter response vehicles, seems to be just that.”
Foster said he agreed on the importance to reduce expenses and maintain the balanced budget the Legislature responsibly enacted last fiscal year, but he called on the department director to find a way to maintain the corrections officer RUI classification for the safety of Michigan’s communities, inmates and corrections officers.
The House did not support the 107th District lawmaker’s proposed budget amendment. The budget bill, House Bill 5365 now goes to the Senate for consideration.