Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Traverse City Record-Eagle. August 3, 2022.

Editorial: It’s time to pump funds into sewer projects

Rich is good in a lot of cases.

Rich is good in the Mega Millions lotto.

Rich is good when it comes to flavor of foods like cheesecake and chocolate.

Rich in nutrition is good for health, but “nutrient-rich” is bad if you’re an oligotrophic lake. Those nutrients come from things like fertilizers, farm animals and waterfowl. Also, decaying human feces from leaky septic systems.

But in Higgins Lake, some residents feel like the proposed $115 million sewer system is too rich for their blood, even as the waters show signs of septic system pollution. The Gerrish and Lyon township-plan is fueling petition drives and animosity between neighbors, reported Bridge Michigan, as sides split between wealthier lakeshore residents who can afford the increased sewer rates, and those lower-income residents in the backlots who see the move as another way to make the rich, richer by mushrooming McMansions with more bathrooms and subsequent hikes in property values.

It’s an understandable quandary. Throw in historic bad blood when lakeshore residents cut off backlot residents’ access to the lake, and the sewer scrap is no mystery.

But the health of Higgins Lake impacts the tourism-driven community in its entirety, and the spike in plant and algae growth is already changing the clear, blue lake into a weedier one.

This change is being echoed across our state’s northern reaches.

Torch, Elk and Skegemog lake communities are among others seeing troubling algae blooms and plant growth, ringed by residents’ divided on the septic tank issue. Our state has about 1.4 million septic systems and the dubious honor of being the only one without a uniform septic code.

But Michigan’s tanks are full to brimming currently with the unprecedented COVID-19 funds. Now is the time to pump funding into sewer infrastructure that will keep our prized fresh waters healthier, while helping lower-income residents make up the difference. It won’t be easy — Northport residents are still smarting over the sewer scrapes of years past — but it can be done.

Our legislators need to lead instead of letting the decaying human fecal matter just flow downstream.

Everyone uses the bathroom, but no one wants to swim, fish, recreate or relax in a toilet.

Nutrient-rich isn’t good, but clean water enriches us.

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Iron Mountain Daily News. August 3, 2022.

Editorial: MiABLE program helps people with disabilities save for the future

August is “ABLE To Save Month” in Michigan, offering a chance to publicize and encourage investments in the state’s Achieving a Better Life Experience savings program.

“Michigan was one of the first states to launch an ABLE plan to help people with disabilities achieve greater financial independence,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “Able To Save Month is an opportunity to promote awareness of this great program and help Michiganders learn about all of the options available to them.”

MiABLE, administered by the Michigan Department of Treasury, will offer a $50 match on new accounts opened with $50 or more throughout August. Purchasers can open a MiABLE account online at MiABLE.org. Only one account per beneficiary qualifies for the match.

Unlike traditional savings accounts, MiABLE savings are not considered when applying for federal or state benefits, like Social Security Disability Income, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. MiABLE accounts also allow for savings of up to $100,000 without losing financial disability benefits.

Individuals are eligible to open and fund a MiABLE account if they become disabled or blind before age 26 and are entitled to collect Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income — though they do not need to be receiving either of these benefits to qualify for a MiABLE account.

MiABLE also allows family members, guardians, powers of attorney and others to open and manage an account on behalf of a person with a disability.

Funds from a MiABLE account are not taxed if used for qualified disability expenses such as education, housing, transportation, medical costs, employment training, assistive technology and personal support services, legal fee expenses for oversight and monitoring and end-of-life expenses. Michigan state income taxpayers can claim up to a $5,000 deduction for single filers and $10,000 for joint filers for MiABLE contributions.

In September 2021, Michigan joined the National ABLE Alliance, a 18-member bipartisan state consortium that works to create the most cost-effective and user-friendly ABLE programs for people with disabilities.

Along with Michigan, the National ABLE Alliance consists of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.

The federal Stephen J. Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 authorized tax-advantaged investment accounts similar to college savings programs. Before ABLE, individuals risked losing government disability benefits if their assets exceeded $2,000.

MiABLE has more than $35 million in assets and nearly 4,100 accounts, with an average balance of more than $9,000.

“Efforts like Able To Save Month help us to reach more people and encourage them to start investing in their future,” MiABLE Program Director R. Scott de Varona said.

More information about MiABLE is available at MiABLE.org or 844-656-7225.

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The Mining Journal. August 3, 2022.

Editorial: Latest Kids Count profiles good snapshot of county

The Michigan League for Public Policy’s newly released “2022 Kids Count in Michigan Data Profiles” includes a lot of good news about Marquette County.

As usual, though, a lot of work needs to be done.

The profiles identify state and county trends in four categories: economic security, education, health and safety, and family and community.

The data profile for Marquette County, for example, shows the rate of newborn children to age 17 living in poverty dropped 12.7% from 2010 to 2020. However, young adults ages 18 to 24 living in poverty increased 28.5% in that time period.

The rate of 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool from 2010 to 2020 increased 10.6%, while the rate of students graduating on time increased 1% from 2010 to 2021.

Teen births dropped 49.2% from 2010 to 2020, while infant mortality dropped 11.2% in that same time period.

The rate of less-than-adequate prenatal care, though, was up 26.9% from 2010 to 2020.

MLPP listed 2022 policy wins and targets. A number of COVID-era changes lifted children out of poverty and helped young adults, Federal Child Tax Credit payment amounts were increased and extended to children in families with low or no earnings, and advance monthly payments were provided to increase income stability.

So, MLPP recommends making these expansions permanent and increasing Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit from its current 6% to 30% of the federal credit, indicating that an increase of this amount would mean a difference of $150 to $749 in credit to working people.

MLPP also noted that although Michigan has steadily increased per-pupil funding, that funding — when adjusted for inflation — actually fell by 9% between 2008 and 2019. It also reported that Michigan shifted $4.5 million intended for K-12 schools to universities and community colleges from 2010 to 2019 to help balance the state budget.

Because of these statistics, MLPP urges using the money in the state’s School Fund Aid solely for K-12 education, as had been the case before 2009.

Another problem in the area of education involves students not being in school, with Michigan having the third-highest rate of fourth-grade chronic absenteeism in the U.S. in 2019, an increase of nearly 47% since 2015, according to MLPP, which noted that students who are economically disadvantaged and/or homeless continue to be most likely to be chronically absent.

MLPP believes that tackling economic and housing insecurity is one way to address this problem.

As in previous years, there are many aspects to this year’s Kids Count — and many ways to work to solve the issues.

We believe local, state and federal agencies — as well as the communities they serve — should continue to work together for the betterment of Michigan’s youngsters.

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