Senate budget chairman comments on updated state revenue estimate

LANSING, Mich. — After state fiscal and economic leaders at Friday’s annual May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference released their economic and state tax revenue projections that are used to set parameters for the fiscal year 2020 budget, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, issued the following statement:

“It’s good news that our economy is expected to continue improving and that the resulting tax revenues are projected to be more than January’s estimate, but it’s not a winning lottery ticket for new spending.

“This cautious forecast illustrates that we must continue making smart budget decisions that keep our state on solid footing.

“As discussions move forward on additional funding for our roads, we have a responsibility to the Michigan people to enact a balanced budget on time using real revenues.

“This week, the Senate passed a budget that shows how we can increase funding for roads and schools to record levels with existing tax dollars.

“I look forward to working with the House of Representatives and the governor to finalize a budget that provides vital services to Michigan families while we work on a responsible road funding solution.”

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Senate passes FY 2020 budget plan

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas this week supported Senate passage of a fiscal year 2020 budget plan that increases education and road funding while living within the state’s means.

“The Senate budget is a responsible plan that uses existing resources to help improve Michigan for families, workers and job creators,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This plan increases funding for our roads and schools to record levels without depending on a massive $2.5 billion tax hike on Michigan families.

“Under this budget, we will have increased our annual transportation spending by more than $1.75 billion in a decade and boosted annual state funding for schools by more than $2.6 billion over the past several years.”

Senate Bill 146 would invest $15.2 billion in education, a total increase of nearly $400 million.

Schools would see a foundation allowance boost of between $135 and $270 per pupil — the largest per-pupil increase in 18 years and $107 million more of a foundation allowance increase than the governor’s plan.

“We are also investing an additional $132 million entirely to local roads — fully implementing $1.2 billion from the 2015 roads plan a year ahead of schedule,” Stamas said. “Discussions can and will continue on additional funding for our roads, but we need to press forward and fulfill our other responsibilities with the resources that we currently have. It’s one of our top jobs to pass a balanced budget on time — and we owe that to all Michigan families.”

The Senate-passed budget includes an additional $51.2 million for constitutional revenue sharing for local governments, graduates 85 new state police troopers and invests $120 million for drinking water protections.

It would also restore the governor’s planned funding cuts to programs that improve access to OB-GYN services in rural areas, strengthen rural hospitals, boost the number of medical residents in underserved areas, and support skilled trades training.

“I am proud of the smart investments made in this budget, and I look forward to working with my House colleagues and the governor to finalize a state budget on time that addresses the priorities and pocketbooks of the people of Michigan,” Stamas said.

SBs 133-149 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration

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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 supports reform to reduce auto insurance rates

LANSING, Mich.Sen. Jim Stamas on Tuesday voted to support Senate legislation to reduce auto insurance rates in Michigan by providing drivers more coverage choices, cracking down on fraud and lawsuit abuse, and reducing inflated medical costs.

“One of the top issues I hear about from residents is the tremendous impact that our state’s highest-in-the-nation car insurance rates are having on family budgets and our economy,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “I have long supported reforms to make auto insurance more affordable, and I am proud to support this comprehensive plan to lower car insurance rates for all Michigan drivers while ensuring that accident victims still receive the medical care they need.”

According to an October 2018 report, Michigan drivers pay the highest auto insurance rates in the country — 83% higher than the national average. A recent University of Michigan study also said that auto insurance rates are unaffordable in 97% of the state’s ZIP codes.

Senate Bill 1 would require auto insurers to offer Michigan drivers at least three new personal injury protection (PIP) coverage options, including the ability of drivers with qualified medical coverage — such as health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid — to opt out of PIP coverage since they already have medical coverage for injuries.

“This reform would give drivers the ability to choose the auto insurance coverage that best meets their needs and budget — for the first time in over 45 years,” Stamas said. “With this increased flexibility and depending on the choices made, Michigan drivers could see modest savings or save as much as 90% on their car insurance.”

SB 1 would also reduce out-of-control medical costs that are passed on to drivers via higher rates, cut fraud and conflicts of interest in the auto insurance system, and reduce the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) fee by approximately $180 per vehicle.

People already receiving care through the MCCA will continue to get lifetime care under their current unlimited benefit policy as promised.

“This is a huge step to finally providing much-needed relief to Michigan drivers,” Stamas said. “The bipartisan Senate plan offers a real solution to the burdensome car insurance costs facing Michigan families, and I encourage our House colleagues and the governor to make it a reality.”

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Stamas: Senate budget plan increases roads and school funding without governor’s tax hike

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Wednesday said that the Senate fiscal year 2020 budget plan approved by the committee this week increases investments in key priorities while living within the state’s means.

“The Senate budget plan increases funding for our roads and schools to record levels without depending on a massive $2.5 billion tax hike on Michigan families,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Under this budget, we will have increased our state’s annual transportation spending by more than $1.75 billion over the past 10 years and boosted state funding for schools by over $2.6 billion since Governor Granholm’s last budget.”

The Senate plan would invest $15.2 billion in education, a total increase of nearly $400 million.

Schools would see a foundation allowance boost of between $135 and $270 per pupil — the largest per-pupil increase in 18 years and $107 million more of a foundation allowance increase than the governor’s plan.

The plan also increases constitutional revenue sharing by $51.2 million for local governments and fully implements $1.2 billion from the 2015 roads plan a year ahead of schedule — investing an additional $132 million entirely to local roads.

“This is the next step in enacting a smart budget to help improve our state for Michigan families, workers and job creators,” Stamas said. “I am proud of the responsible budget plan we have put together, and I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and the governor to finalize a balanced budget on time that reflects taxpayer priorities and pocketbooks.”

The Senate plan would graduate 85 new state police troopers and invest $120 million for drinking water protections. It would also restore the governor’s planned cuts to funding that improves access to OB-GYN services in rural areas, strengthens rural hospitals, boosts the number of medical residents in underserved areas, and supports skilled trades training to help prepare workers for in-demand jobs.

The budget bills now head to the full Senate.

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Stamas, Glenn sponsor Szymanski memorial highway bills

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas and Rep. Annette Glenn on Tuesday introduced legislation to honor Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Szymanski, who was killed while on duty during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2014.

“America remains the beacon of freedom and liberty in the world today because of the courage of patriots like Marine Lance Corporal Szymanski,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “After earning his associate degree in criminal justice, Steven decided to serve his country in the Marines, and this measure is a way for us to show our deep appreciation for his service and his sacrifice.”

Senate Bill 280 and House Bill 4485 would designate a portion of U.S. 10 from Jefferson Ave. to Bay City Road in Midland as the “Marine Lance Corporal Steven J. Szymanski Memorial Highway.”

“Lance Corporal Szymanski loved his family and friends and his community and country,” said Glenn, R-Midland. “This memorial highway would be a permanent reminder of the true cost of freedom and a tribute to a native son who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our country.”

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

The bills 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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Stamas disappointed with AG Nessel power grab

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas on Friday said he is disappointed and frustrated that Attorney General Dana Nessel is unwilling or unable to follow the Michigan Constitution or law.

“The attorney general either doesn’t understand that we have co-equal branches of government where the Legislature makes the laws and the executive branch implements the laws or she simply doesn’t care,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Based on her policies and practices so far, the attorney general is going to do whatever it takes to achieve her own political agenda — in place of upholding Michigan law.”

On Thursday, Nessel issued an opinion declaring that a law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December was unconstitutional “because its provisions go beyond the scope of what was disclosed in its title.”

“The fact is that the attorney general never liked the Mackinac tunnel proposal, and her action to overturn the law is a pure partisan power grab based on her personal opinion,” Stamas said. “The Mackinac Straits utility tunnel is the best option to protect our Great Lakes, maintain a critical supply of energy to Northern Michigan families and provide well-paying Michigan jobs.”

Stamas is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the General Government subcommittee.

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Stamas applauds local schools receiving 2019 safety grants

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas on Friday congratulated area schools awarded grants this week from the state’s 2019 Competitive School Safety Grant Program.

“A safe and secure school environment is critical to our effort to provide all Michigan students with an education that prepares them for success,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “While many of our schools have already made the necessary safety improvements, these grants are the next step in ensuring that every school has the enhanced security needed to keep our students and teachers safe.”

In 2018, the Michigan Legislature invested a total of $50 million into the grant program to help improve the safety and security of school buildings through the purchase of technology and equipment and through school building safety assessments.

The Michigan State Police (MSP) in October awarded $25 million in grants to 188 schools, school districts and regional education agencies throughout the state — including schools in Alcona, Alpena, Coleman, Gaylord, Gladwin, Midland, Mio and Sanford.

On Wednesday, the MSP awarded another $25 million in grants. Schools in the 36th Senate District receiving grants are:
• Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District — $85,951
• Beaverton Rural Schools — $88,638
• Saint Brigid Catholic School, Midland — $23,837
• Tawas Area Schools — $52,968

A complete list of recipients is available at www.michigan.gov/cjgrants. Click on the “General Grants School Safety” box.

According to the Michigan State Police (MSP), 366 applications were reviewed by a committee that included representatives from the MSP, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools and other school safety professionals.

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Stamas: MCCA fee increase example of need for auto insurance reform

Senator highlights new ‘IfMiRatesWereLower’ website

LANSING, Mich.Sen. Jim Stamas on Wednesday said the announcement by the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) of a nearly 15 percent increase in its assessment illustrated the need to reduce the cost of car insurance in Michigan.

“Our state’s highest-in-the-nation car insurance rates are straining family budgets and holding back our economy,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This fee increase will only make the cost of auto insurance worse, and it illustrates the need for action to make auto insurance more affordable while ensuring that drivers receive necessary medical care if they are in an accident.”

The MCCA announced on Wednesday that its assessment on auto insurance companies will increase by $28 on July 1 from $192 to $220. The increase will ultimately be passed on to drivers in the form of higher rates.

“The Senate is taking the lead on reducing burdensome car insurance costs facing Michigan families, and there is now an easy way for residents to let their voices be heard,” Stamas said. “A new website has been launched to allow drivers to let policymakers know what reducing auto insurance rates would mean to them.”

Residents can tell their stories about what lower auto insurance rates would mean to their family at www.IfMiRatesWereLower.com.

“I encourage drivers to submit their stories as we continue to work on achieving much-needed relief through comprehensive reform that adds flexibility, combats fraud and reduces costs,” Stamas said.

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Stamas clears up principal residence exemption misinformation

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas is alerting Michigan homeowners about inaccurate information being shared online about the principal residence exemption.

“Unfortunately, many residents are receiving false information on social media saying that their principal residence exemption is only good for 25 years and they will see a huge tax increase once they hit that mark,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “I want to be as clear as possible: Your principal residence exemption never expires, and you do not need to refile for it unless you move.”

According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, state officials and local assessors are experiencing a surge in inquiries from residents who are trying to verify the misinformation or submit unneeded paperwork.

A principal residence exemption (PRE) exempts a residence from the tax levied by a local school district for school operating purposes up to 18 mills. To qualify for a PRE, a person must be a Michigan resident who owns and occupies the property as a principal residence.

For more information about property taxes, residents can visit www.michigan.gov/propertytax.

Residents can also contact Stamas’ office toll-free at 1-855-347-8036 or via email at SenJStamas@senate.michigan.gov.

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Stamas, Daley welcome Standish Chamber president to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, and Sen. Kevin Daley, R-Lum, welcomed Standish Area Chamber of Commerce President Tara Binder to the Michigan Capitol on Thursday. She was a guest of Stamas and spent the day learning more about state government.

Binder lives in Pinconning, is a graduate of Unionville-Sebewaing High School and is the bank manager at Independent Bank’s Standish office. Last year, she was honored by Independent Bank with its first-ever Volunteer of the Year Award.

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