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Michigan’s Window to Invest in Transformational Change is Closing

With Michigan’s economy cooking, state tax receipts have skyrocketed. Add to that the passage of the federal American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last year, and Michigan faces an opportunity we’ve rarely seen in its history: the state budget is flush with dollars. Unfortunately, as more and more proposals are introduced to spend the money, including structurally inappropriate tax cuts passed by the legislature last week Thursday, Michigan risks frittering away this special moment.

In 2021 when it first became apparent the incredible scale of money flowing into Michigan (a number that has only grown), the initial reaction from our elected leaders was positive and on point — they saw it as a transformational opportunity to make lasting, foundational, scale investments capable of moving the needle on some of Michigan’s most critical long-standing issues. 

Now, moving into an election year, a myriad of politics, ideologies, business groups, and other special interest organizations have whittled that posture away. Astoundingly, some are even arguing for the money to be sent back to Washington D.C.

Michigan LCV recognizes the significance of this singular moment. We recognize the idea of spreading these funds broadly across the entire economy feels good in the short term and makes for excellent politics. We also recognize this idea might please the highest number of people and powerful interests over the next few years. But a moment this significant demands more.

This is the moment when COVID, climate change, and structural inequality demand that we should be bold and do better. This is a moment to build wealth and quality of life for the next 50 years.  

Michigan LCV believes water infrastructure investments, currently best represented in SB 565, meet the moment to utilize available funds to make the foundational investments necessary to build wealth and health for Michiganders. Under the current proposal (which we believe should grow to meet the breadth and depth of the $20 billion needed over the next ten years), $3.3 billion would be dedicated to repairing Michigan’s crumbling water infrastructure including: lead pipeline replacement, wastewater and drinking water, PFAS remediation, Filter First hydration stations in K-12 schools and and more.

When debating how to spend this money, we encourage lawmakers to ask themselves the question: How can we spend this money so that 20 years from now all Michiganders will still feel its impact? Let’s not squander this moment. 

Quick Hits

Lead Line Replacements Continue

Governor Whitmer announced $3.5 million in MI Clean Water grants to nine Michigan cities and villages to reduce the risks associated with lead in drinking water. The recipients of the grants are: Cadillac, Center Line, Lathrup Village, Port Austin Area Sewer and Water Authority, Rogers City, Baraga, Algonac, and Wixom. 

Bills Coming to Protect Groundwater Resources in the Public Trust 

A group of Democratic lawmakers plans to introduce a package of bills in the coming weeks to protect Michigan’s groundwater under the public trust doctrine requiring the state to safeguard and preserve natural resources for future generations. The doctrine already applies to surface waters, and the proposed legislation is needed to explicitly include groundwater, and a glaring loophole in the Great Lakes Compact for bottled water. In 2019, the DEQ granted approval for Nestle to pump and bottle Great Lakes water from their plant in Evart, Michigan — although this specific permit has since been relinquished by their successor company. Read more here.

Dam Mismanagement Leads to Sediment Polluting Kalamazoo River, State Sues

On Tuesday, MDNR, EGLE and Attorney General Nessel filed a complaint against Eagle Creek Renewable Energy for environmental damages to the Kalamazoo River stemming from the discharge of “vast amounts of sediment” coming from the Morrow Dam in Comstock Twp., causing harm to wildlife and impacting the natural flow of the river. The state alleges Eagle Creek Renewable Energy has done little to remediate the site, and have said it resulted from mismanagement. Read more about the lawsuit here and stay tuned next week for a feature on Representative Julie Rogers and her work to protect the Kalamazoo River. 

MLCV’s Accountability Corner

National LCV Releases their 2021 National Environmental Scorecard

This week, the national LCV released its 2021 National Environmental Scorecard, a summary of environmental voting records of members of Congress over the past year. Like Michigan LCV’s Accountability Suite and scorecard, the National Environmental Scorecard is an important tool used in our work to hold Michigan’s elected officials in Washington, D.C. accountable. 

For the first time since the National Environmental Scorecard began in 1970, the 2021 scorecard includes scores on basic votes in Congress relating to things like electoral outcomes and the peaceful transfer of power. In addition to environmental votes, LCV scored members of Congress on votes relating to democracy and voting rights, both of which have deep connections to the fight against climate change.

 

Michigan is one of 18 states with Senate delegations that received scores of 100% for their voting records in 2021! Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters demonstrated why they are champions for our environment, climate and democracy, consistently voting for the best interests of their constituents and Michigan communities. Six of Michigan’s 14 Representatives received a perfect 100% rating, and one received a 95% rating. 

Public Service Spotlight — Jesse Osmer

Jesse Osmer works as a legislative aide for Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine). Michigan LCV would like to recognize him for his excellent work helping to introduce and push conservation priorities. In particular, Jesse has supported Rep. Allor’s efforts to allocate funding to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, prohibit the use of anchors in the Straits of Mackinac to protect against a Line 5 rupture, to create the Great Lakes Sports Commission, and prohibit the use of PFAS-laden fire fighting foam. Jesse’s work on these issues serve to protect Michigan’s rich outdoor traditions and preserve natural resources for future generations. We are lucky to have Jesse as an advocate for these conservation issues in Lansing!

Q: What environmental issues do you think are most important statewide?

I wouldn’t be able to properly rank the various environmental issues our state faces as it really depends on where you live – each region faces its own unique challenges. I am fortunate to call northeast Michigan home. The top two issues I feel are pertinent to that area would be perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, contamination. This “forever chemical” has wreaked havoc on many of our communities, the source of these pollutants include the private sector, local units of government, and branches of the military. Other items we have focused on during the Representative’s tenure include algae blooms in Lake Eerie, protecting wetlands, and of course combating invasive species.

 

Q: What environmental issue are you most proud of working on?

I hate to sound like a broken record, but our work on bringing the Legislature’s focus to the issue of PFAS was one of our earliest and most prominent accomplishments. I vividly remember the day the Representative, upon hearing of yet another contaminated site being found in our district, marched down to the Speaker’s Office (without having an appointment) insisting they discuss this chemical and what could be done. Shortly thereafter, and due to the timing I can only assume as a result of that meeting, Governor Snyder created the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team known as MPART (which Governor Whitmer reauthorized when she came into office), and the Legislature began appropriating funds specifically flagged for PFAS remediation. Unfortunately, there’s still work to be done and I hope that the 102nd Legislature continues the work Sue began during her first year in office.