Back to School, Budget Update

Friday, August 16, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

As students across Michigan gear up to return to school for the 2019-2020 school year and as the Legislature comes back to Lansing to finish the budget, I am glad to write to you once more as your representative. In order to represent you and your priorities, I rely on feedback from constituents. You can get in touch with me by phone at (517) 373-2577, by email at yousefrabhi@house.mi.gov or on my website, rabhi.housedems.com. I will keep you updated on developments in Lansing with this monthly e-newsletter. If you would like to unsubscribe, please email me at yousefrabhi@house.mi.gov.

I look forward to working together to move Michigan forward.

Sincerely,

Yousef Rabhi

**Upcoming Event:
Townhall Meeting on PFAS – with Congresswoman Dingell and Washtenaw Legislators
Tuesday, Aug. 20
7 – 8:30 p.m.
EMU Student Center, 900 Oakwood St. in Ypsilanti

Discussion Schedule
I hold two “Yousef and You” forums each month to provide anyone in our district an opportunity to get an update on legislative issues, ask questions and participate in open discussion. I hope many of you will be able to join me there.
The next Yousef and You forums will be:

Saturday, Aug. 24 - Coffee Hour
10 a.m.
Community Room, RoosRoast Coffee, 1155 Rosewood St. in Ann Arbor

Monday, Sept. 9
6 p.m.
Banfield’s Bar and Grill, 3140 Packard St. inAnn Arbor

School Budget Update 
Last month, our budget update focused on the debate lawmakers are having around road funding. This month, as children across our state are heading back into the classroom and teachers are preparing for the school year ahead, it is time we shift the focus to how this year’s budget proposals will impact teachers, students and their families.
MPSERS Pension Fund Plan

Republicans in Lansing have a new plan to fix our roads and it involves targeting public educators who have dedicated decades of service to our state. The Republican plan is a complex technical workaround that ignores the heart of the problem and does nothing to bring in the new revenue our state desperately needs to fix our crumbling infrastructure. This plan would take away funding that is currently going towards teacher pensions and instead shift it to road repairs. It would accomplish this by issuing a 30-year pension obligation bond for 10 billion dollars. That bond would be used to pay down some unfunded liabilities present in the Michigan Public School Employees' Retirement System (MPSRS), which would reduce up-front costs to the state School Aid Fund but may cost a lot more in the long run.
 
The success of this plan relies heavily on both the cost of borrowing on the bond market and the rate of return for MPSERS funds on the open market. As we know, these markets are subject to sometimes dramatic changes which can cause this financial scheme to falter or collapse. Proponents estimate that this plan could mean some upfront savings which would then be redirected through a series of legally questionable maneuvers shifting sales tax money from schools to roads.  
 
Unfortunately, this is not the only proposal on the table to toy with the school employee retirement system to fix the roads. A second proposal would essentially extend the amount of time allotted to pay down the systems unfunded liabilities by up to 10 years. The result: less money will be committed each year to the pension fund and paying down the liability will be delayed. This plan would also create upfront savings that could be shifted from schools to roads, but once again kicks the proverbial can down the road and fails to adequately protect the retirement security of our school retirees.
 
Our public school employees, who have devoted their career to public service, deserve better. We cannot continue to mortgage their retirement for short term gain. Teachers in Michigan work tirelessly every day to ensure our students are prepared for success. In my role as your state representative, you can rest assured that I will continue to protect teacher pensions and stand strong against any plan that limits the ability of Michigan teachers to retire with dignity.

House Education Funding
Earlier this year, the House passed their education budget, House Bill 4242, on a party-line vote. I was proud to take a stand for public education by voting NO on this budget, which contained several problematic aspects that would harm essential school services that educators and students across our state rely on. To start with, this budget would fail to provide adequate funding for students across Michigan. To ensure that we are competitive in a 21st century economy and that our schools are fully funded, we must invest in education at all levels. Though the budget the House passed contained some small funding increases, it failed once again to meet the needs of our educational system and fell far short of the budget which Gov. Whitmer proposed. The House budget would also continue to unfairly prop up cyber charter schools by directing more taxpayer dollars to these schools which have repeatedly failed to meet transparency, accountability and performance criteria. As budget negotiations advance, I will continue to support and advocate for an education budget that promotes investment in our education system so we can restore Michigan’s schools to being some of the best in the nation.

Washtenaw Intermediate School District Millage Proposal
For those of you who voted in last week’s election, thank you for getting out and making your voices heard. Participating in the voting process is how we work together to solve problems and make our community a better place to live.
The proposal to institute a 0.37-mill rate on residents in the WISD school district would fund the renovation of High Point School’s gymnasium and pool where students with special needs receive adaptive aquatics and adaptive physical education. It would also fund the construction of new classrooms, specialized facilities for subjects such as music and art, and other improvements to better support the school’s mission. The proposal passed with 15,595 voting in favor and 12,329 voting against.
Thank you to everyone who voted in this important election. I hope you continue to stay engaged in your local, county and state government issues.