Stamas ‘extremely disappointed’ with governor’s cuts

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Thursday said the governor’s $947 million in line-item vetoes from the fiscal year 2020 budget put public safety and public health at risk.

“Although I’m happy the governor signed the budget with increased funding for K-12 education and drinking water protections, I am extremely disappointed with her nearly $1 billion in line-item vetoes,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “We delivered a responsible and balanced state budget on time that increased funding for roads and schools, and she virtually gutted it because it doesn’t include her massive $2.5 billion tax hike on Michigan families.

“The governor’s reckless, punitive and partisan actions jeopardize public safety and public health, especially in our rural communities.”

Upon signing the state budget, the governor issued a historic 147 line-item vetoes to cut nearly $950 million in funding approved by the Legislature, including:
• $375 million in additional road funding;
• $128 million from the K-12 school aid budget;
• $15 million in grants to local airports for PFAS and emerging contaminants;
• $34 million for mostly rural critical access hospitals;
• $17.5 million to train doctors needed in underserved rural communities;
• $16.6 million for rural hospitals that are the sole option in their communities;
• $8 million for OB-GYN services at rural hospitals;
• $13 million for county sheriff secondary road patrols; and
• $27 million in payments to rural communities in lieu of taxes on state-owned land.

The governor also eliminated funding for the Pure Michigan tourism promotion program, the Going Pro job training program and the county jail reimbursement program.

The governor also used the State Administrative Board — made up of four statewide elected officials and select department heads — to transfer $625 million around in various departments.

“Members of the Senate and House Appropriations committees spent a tremendous amount of time putting together a smart budget for all Michigan families and job providers,” Stamas said. “Unfortunately, the governor walked out of the budget talks, cut nearly $1 billion on her own, and then circumvented our co-equal system of government by taking the unprecedented action of using an administrative board to move $625 million without legislative or public input.”

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Legislature sends FY 2020 budget to governor

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Tuesday voted to send the governor a balanced fiscal year 2020 budget that increases investments in key priorities while living within the state’s means.

“We owe it to the people of Michigan to deliver a responsible state budget on time that will help improve our state for families, workers and job creators. That’s what we’re doing,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This budget funds vital services while increasing funding for roads, schools and water protection to record levels — without depending on a massive $2.5 billion tax hike on Michigan families.”

Senate Bill 149 would invest $5.4 billion in transportation in FY 2020, an increase of more than $2 billion since FY 2010.

Last week, the Legislature finalized the school budget. House Bill 4242 would invest more than $15.2 billion in K-12 education, a boost of over $2.2 billion in school funding since FY 2011.

“We need to invest more in our schools and our roads, and this budget increases school support by nearly $400 million and boosts funding by $400 million to help improve local roads and bridges,” Stamas said. “Discussions will continue with the governor on how to fund our roads over the long term, but today we fulfilled our responsibility to the people of Michigan and enacted a balanced budget on time — using resources we currently have.

“As road funding talks continue, I respectfully request the governor to sign this smart budget and keep Michigan open for businesses.”

The budget bills given final legislative approval on Tuesday would invest $120 million in drinking water protections, increase funding to local governments, train more state troopers and corrections officers, assist efforts to respond to public health hazards, and fund programs that support rural hospitals and help improve access to OB-GYN services in rural areas.

Under HB 4242, schools would see a foundation allowance boost of between $120 and $240 per pupil, $522 million invested to help at-risk students, a $21.5 million increase in career and technical education funding, and a $60 million increase for special education.

The budget bills will be presented to the governor this week. The bills are SBs 134, 137-139, 141, 144, 147 and 149 and HBs 4229, 4231, 4232, 4236, 4238, 4239, 4241 and 4242.

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Stamas: Be alert for scams

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas is urging area families to be mindful of scams and to take steps to protect their personal information.

“Scam artists are constantly trying new ways to disguise who they are and trick people into giving them money or valuable information,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “I encourage everyone to continue to be on the lookout for scams. Residents can avoid most scams by never clicking on unfamiliar email links, opening emails from unknown senders or giving out their credit card, bank account or Social Security numbers over the phone.”

One common scam is a person making unsolicited phone calls claiming to be a tax official or from Medicare.

“State and federal tax officials will never initially contact residents by phone demanding immediate payment, and they will never threaten to call the police to arrest you for not paying,” Stamas said. “If you get a call like that or if someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information, hang up. It’s a scam.”

Due to a voice-recording scam, people should not respond to questions that can be answered with “yes” from unknown numbers.

Residents can report a suspected scam to the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-765-8388. Victims of scams should contact their local law enforcement agency. If scammers were able to get credit card or bank account information, residents should contact their financial institution immediately.

The attorney general’s office also offers “Consumer Alerts” at www.michigan.gov/ag under “Services,” including alerts on identity theft and popular scams.

Consumers may place their home and cell phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register, residents can call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number they want to register. For more information or to register online, visit www.donotcall.gov.

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Stamas: State has millions in unclaimed property

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas is encouraging residents to use a state website to see if any of the millions of dollars in lost or forgotten assets are theirs to be claimed.

“Although more than $400 million worth of unclaimed property has been returned to Michigan residents over the last five years, the state still has tens of millions of dollars’ worth of assets waiting to be returned to its rightful owners,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Thankfully, the state has a website that makes it easy for people to search the unclaimed property database and submit a claim if they find anything belonging to them.”

Because the assets were considered abandoned and unclaimed by the bank or company entrusted with them, they were turned over to the state, as required by law. The state then acts as the custodian of the assets and returns them to their owners or the owners’ heirs.

Residents can visit www.michigan.gov/unclaimedproperty to search and claim assets that belong to them. All properties listed are worth $50 or more.

Collected items are held for a maximum of three years, after which they are auctioned. Residents who discover their property after it has been auctioned will still receive the cash value for what was made at auction.

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Stamas applauds grants for two area agriculture businesses

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas on Thursday applauded a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announcement that two area businesses have been awarded grants to improve and expand their operations.

“Michigan food and agriculture industry contributes more than $104 billion annually to the state’s economy and employs over 800,000 workers — about 17% of our workforce,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “I congratulate JNelson Farms and Next Phase Enterprises for earning these competitive grants to help them continue to grow and create new opportunities in their communities.”

JNelson Farms in Midland County’s Hope Township will receive a $40,390 grant to expand its permanent and mobile frozen storage. The business is owned and operated by Jon and Tammy Nelson and is a leading producer of grass-fed beef in the state.

Next Phase Enterprises in Montmorency County will get a $94,800 grant to establish a commercial dry bean and hemp flour production line to expand markets for Michigan crops. Brothers Shah and Haq Chaudary bought a product line of gluten-free products in Hillman last fall and launched Next Phase with plans to move it to Chicago. They decided to stay in Michigan with the goal of making Hillman the gluten-free manufacturing capital of the Midwest.

The family-owned businesses are two of 20 projects awarded $1.8 million in grants that will leverage more than $12 million in private investments for food and agriculture initiatives.

MDARD promotes and manages several competitive grant programs. For more information, visit www.Michigan.gov/MDARDgrants.

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Stamas supports Alpena County library millage renewal

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas has announced that he supports the upcoming Alpena County library millage renewal.

“As someone who has served on the Library of Michigan board, I know how important our libraries are to our communities,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Each year, the Alpena County library provides a wide variety of services to 125,000 visitors of all ages — from seniors to young children. These include providing free internet access, free movie and book rentals, and numerous personal improvement programs.

“I support the millage renewal so that the library can continue to serve Alpena-area families for generations to come.”

On Aug. 6, Alpena County voters will be asked whether to renew a 0.25 mill levy that expires this year. The library is asking for the millage to be renewed for 20 years to raise funds to make key renovations to the 45-year-old facility that would improve services, safety and accessibility.

The renovation project would remove asbestos and upgrade the library’s heating and cooling system to address current high humidity that is damaging books, equipment and electronics.

Alpena County residents can visit www.AlpenaLibrary.org for more information on the 2019 millage renewal.

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Stamas statement on Wurtsmith Air Force Base PFAS developments

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, issued the following statement in response to an announcement made on Monday by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the U.S. Air Force that the Air Force will accelerate its PFAS investigation and treatment at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda:

“I appreciate that the Air Force finally sees what Oscoda residents have been dealing with for years — that more must be done, and sooner, to get rid of the PFAS contamination at the Wurtsmith base. The contamination caused by the federal government has affected the area’s residents for too long and, frankly, the federal government needs to fix it.

“More needs to be done to ensure that affected homeowners have access to safe water for their families instead of just talking about it. That’s why the Senate has acted to support clean water initiatives, including most recently to invest an additional $120 million for drinking water protections in the fiscal year 2020 budget.

“I look forward to the federal government doing its part in cleaning up Wurtsmith to ensure residents have access to clean water once again.”

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Stamas comments on call to increase education spending

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, on Tuesday issued the following statement about the call by teachers to increase support for Michigan schools:

“In May, the Senate approved a responsible budget plan that uses existing resources to increase total K-12 education spending by nearly $400 million to a record $15.2 billion. That is a boost in annual state funding for schools by more than $2.6 billion over the past several years.

“Under our budget, every Michigan school would see a foundation allowance increase — which would be the largest per-pupil increase in 18 years and $107 million more of a foundation allowance increase than the governor’s plan.”

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Stamas, Howell named MTA Legislators of the Year

This release is from the Michigan Townships Association with an added photo:

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Townships Association (MTA) recognized Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland Charter Township, and Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, for their support of township government by presenting them with the MTA “Legislator of the Year” awards. Both Stamas and Howell received the prestigious award, which honors lawmakers who are instrumental in legislation impacting township government and who work diligently on townships’ behalf, today at the MTA Board of Directors meeting in Portage.

“Sen. Stamas and Rep. Gary Howell consistently put good public policy before partisan politics,” MTA Executive Director Larry Merrill said. “Both have gone above and beyond to not only listen to township input, but also taking what they’ve heard and using it to shape legislation. Their work was instrumental in the passage of key bills, from assessing reform to including township voices in the purchase of state land.”

Now in his final Senate term, Stamas is a former member of the Midland Charter Township (Midland Co.) Board of Trustees as well as the Midland County Board of Commissioners. He served three terms in the state House of Representative before he was elected to the Senate, where he currently serves as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Throughout his years in the Legislature, Stamas has played a crucial role in passing legislation impacting townships. Last year, he led the charge to reform Michigan’s assessing system, holding multiple meetings with local officials around the state, listening to their concerns and working with MTA to craft a bill that won MTA’s support. He also provided the momentum needed in the lame duck session to pass the extension and long-sought-after expansion of the pension bonding tool for local units.

“As a former township trustee who now represents 110 townships in the Senate, it’s an honor to be recognized for supporting the important role our townships play in the daily lives of millions of Michigan families,” Stamas said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Michigan Townships Association and all their members to improve our local communities and the entire state for families, workers and job creators.”

Howell, a second-term representative, has a rich history in township government, including 40 years as a township, city and village attorney and five years as a Flint Charter Township (Genesee Co.) trustee and planning commissioner. He can always be counted upon to bring the local government perspective to legislative discussions, and he’s ready and willing to work to advance the best legislation possible for township government. Since coming to Lansing, he has diligently worked with MTA and other local government organizations to support local control and provide alternatives to local preemption.

Thanks to Howell’s tireless efforts, the Legislature reached a resolution to the long-standing state land cap issue. Throughout the process, he worked to ensure that townships have a voice when state land is purchased in their jurisdictions.

“It is a high honor to be named legislator of the year by the Michigan Townships Association,” Howell said. “Having been involved in township government my entire adult life and having worked closely with this vital organization, I realize how extremely important it is to have representation in Lansing to safeguard local citizen control. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the MTA on future legislative issues. I truly hope that local government officials realize the effective work that this organization performs day by day on their behalf.”

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Editor’s note: The above photograph from the MTA is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Photo caption: Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, receives the Michigan Townships Association (MTA) 2019 Legislator of the Year Award from MTA Executive Director Larry Merrill at the MTA Board of Directors meeting in Portage. The award honors lawmakers who are instrumental in legislation impacting township government and who work diligently on townships’ behalf.

Senate approves Szymanski memorial highway bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Jim Stamas’ legislation to permanently honor Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Szymanski, who was killed while on duty during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2014.

“This measure is a way for us to express our deep appreciation for the service and sacrifice of Lance Corporal Steven Szymanski,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Steven was a dedicated Marine who answered the call to service and made the ultimate sacrifice serving our country. The purpose of creating this memorial highway is to honor the memory of a native soldier who never returned home and remind us all about the true price of freedom.”

Senate Bill 280 would designate a portion of U.S. 10 from Jefferson Avenue to Bay City Road in Midland as the “Marine Lance Corporal Steven J. Szymanski Memorial Highway.”

Szymanski was a 2008 graduate of Midland High School. After earning his associate degree in criminal justice, Szymanski enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2013. He is survived by his parents, John and Dawn, and sister Ashlie.

Last week, Szymanski’s parents spoke before the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of the bill, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

SB 280 would have no fiscal impact on the state or local government. Under state law, the Michigan Department of Transportation can place markers indicating the name of a memorial highway only “when sufficient private contributions are received to completely cover the cost of erecting and maintaining those markers.”

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