Detroit News. January 28, 2023.
Editorial: Abortion is not the best growth strategy for Mich.
There are more people dying in Michigan than being born.
In 2021, the state had more deaths than births in a year for only the second time since at least 1900.
Michigan is in a dangerous position of losing its population without the ability to replace it with immigration — or its own fertility rate. Long-term, that will mean not just declining economic growth, but also a loss of political clout.
Michigan’s fertility rate has generally been slightly lower than the national average for 60 years, and its long-term trajectory isn’t good.
Yet Gov. Gretchen Whitmer highlighted the state’s ultra-permissive abortion environment as one of its main attractions in her fifth State of the State speech Wednesday night, pitching it as a growth strategy.
As part of an appeal to retain a younger workforce and encourage child-bearing-aged people to grow their families here, the governor said: “The other half of attracting and retaining young people is standing up for their freedoms. Just a few months ago, Michiganians told us that people should be able to make their own decisions about their own bodies.”
The governor continued: “I’ve also heard from folks like Lauren, who grew up in Traverse City and wants to move back to start a family but waited until she knew her reproductive rights would be protected. Lauren, I want you and anyone living in a state that wants to control your body or deny your existence to know that Michigan has a place for you.”
The governor is right that voters legalized abortion. But effectively making it part of the Pure Michigan campaign to attract new residents is unseemly.
There are a lot of other things that will help lure and retain people of child-bearing age besides the promise of abortion access.
For example, streamlining regulations so that entrepreneurs can more easily open up shop here and help diversify the state’s economic portfolio would be one way.
Creating an urban agenda that helps struggling cities become places where young people can safely live and raise a family is another idea.
And fixing the state’s abysmal education system would certainly help retain people of family-rearing ages.
That means going beyond investing in preschool and dramatically improving outcomes for our state’s kids, continuing to bring down the cost of higher education and finding innovative ways to make Michigan a high-tech magnet.
We understand the governor’s strategy in boasting about reproductive rights, considering our nearest neighbors, Ohio and Indiana, continue for the moment to restrict abortion. But potential new residents, particularly younger ones, are looking for opportunity and a great place to raise their children.
The governor should remember, too, that a large percentage of Americans don’t favor the sort of wide-open abortion environment voters approved in November and might be turned off by her casting Michigan as the abortion state.
The goal should be creating a Michigan in which people who want kids and those who don’t feel equally welcome.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. January 29, 2023.
Editorial: Don’t pave the road to tolling with political dust
The question of tolls rides again. In Michigan, it arrives late — delayed by dint of the pandemic — and repackaged as a popular (35 states agree, including us already), common-sense way to fix our roads and solve expensive infrastructure troubles.
But while tolls certainly generate money, and while the states of our roads and bridges are certainly awful, if we travel this road we can’t let Lansing take us for a ride.
Tolling must be considered in its entirety, with political repackaging crushed, to successfully answer questions brought about by the recent study that suggests that turning I-94, then all or part of I-69, I-75, I-196, I-275, I-696, and M-14 into tollways starting in 2028 would be “feasible.”
First, how did we get here?
It’s a long and winding road, but the shortcut is political dysfunction — not stingy Michiganders. The last three decades feature Michigan dead last in capital outlay for our roads, according to the U.S. Census. This is in spending, not raising.
Michiganders, on the other hand, indeed pay at, or higher than, the national average when it comes to road operations and maintenance. Our gas tax is also average, and just rose again by 1.4% at the start of the new year.
So, it smarted a bit when Eric Morris, of the Missouri-based engineering firm that did the study, told Bridge Michigan: “If you charge people a toll to drive on the roads they are driving on for free right now, it would raise a significant amount of revenue.”
We don’t drive for free. Roads are built and maintained with tax dollars – which is why, until recently, the federal government didn’t allow states to charge tolls on federal highways. Consider that a gallon of gas in Michigan includes 18.4 cents/gallon for the federal government; 28.6 cents/gallon for the state, plus a 6% sales tax to the state. Consider county road mileages, vehicle registrations, title fees. Not free, not by a long shot.
The real problem is our legislators’ inability to problem-solve as a unit and the highly-trafficked off-ramp of monies moving away from roads and bridges into other spending – such as schools, economic development, recreation improvement, public transportation, etc. – plus special discounts for special interests like logging, milk and farm trucking.
While asking Michiganders to pay yet another use tax, political-will realities need to be a part of any tolling conversations. This $3.3 million tolling study was commissioned by Republicans in response to Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pitch to raise the gas tax 45 cents. A few years later, electric cars are now the reason why we need tolling because those drivers won’t pay gas taxes — even as we subsidize electric cars and plants with tax dollars.
We’re not toll trolls, but this is political dust in our eyes.
Incidentally, a 2007 study found electric tolling tends to: (1) raise tolls 20% to 40% when there are no toll booths to clearly assign price to distance; and (2) political toll-setting behavior becomes “less sensitive to the election calendar.” In Michigan, signs point to needing a clearly-marked route between politicians, road taxes and spending, and voter will.
Our infrastructure needs sufficient funding, but Michiganders know that money alone doesn’t solve issues such as a lack of foresight or political will.
Asking more from those who pay their fair share, under rising inflation, needs to come with straight talk, a commitment to bipartisan problem-solving and a recognition of how we got here. Otherwise, we’re potentially putting tolls on a road to nowhere.
Mining Journal. January 25, 2023.
Editorial: State of Michigan badly in need of autism resources
Mental health intervention has come a long way throughout the years, but as with many fields, much is left to accomplish.
Local retired physician Virginia Killough recently related to The Mining Journal her struggles with finding continuing care for her 32-year-old autistic son, who is under hospital care for issues related to his condition.
Her son previously had lived on his own with direct care staff to help him.
However, in a way he is in medical limbo now, and Killough wants to get him back home.
She expressed concern over two main issues: a lack of continuum of care for autistic people like her son who need care beyond their youth, and the problem of getting direct care staff.
It’s her opinion — and the opinion of others, including The Mining Journal — that these workers need better pay and working conditions in a challenging job.
Killough noted that when there are services for autism, they’re for children. She also doesn’t believe that there are proper facilities to temporarily send people as well as professionals to come to the area to help him.
Not every medical professional is trained to deal with adult autistic people, nor is every facility. This is where the state of Michigan should direct more resources.
Of course, living in one’s own home is preferable in many if not most situations, so we also believe that having properly trained and compensated direct care workers is essential.
So, how do we tackle the two-pronged autism problem?
Should medical schools offer more in-depth curricula about adult autism? Should the state open more transient care institutions? And how do we better compensate direct care workers?
It’s not just a local hospital’s responsibility, nor should anyone cast blame on a particular institution Their hardworking employees are just that, hard working.
The systemic problem, though, lies with giving autistic people the proper treatment throughout their entire lives so they can live a long and fulfilling life.
It’s a complicated problem with no easy solutions. The first step, as with many dilemmas, is acknowledging the problem.