Shirkey supports district road funding in Michigan budget

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey voted to approve an additional $330 million in road funding for the 2018-2019 state budgets. This is the eighth year in a row that the Republican-led Legislature has passed a balanced budget ahead of schedule.

Among the many infrastructure projects, the state will spend $800,000 in Hillsdale County to upgrade the Pleasant Lake Road Bridge and will spend $500,000 in Branch County to improve South Angola Road from State Line to BL69.

“The roads in Hillsdale and Branch counties are in need of significant repair,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This additional funding will help keep our motorists safe and our transportation infrastructure usable for residents and visitors.”

Roads have consistently been the top issue for many Michigan residents. The new budget additions will bring the total added investment in roads to $2.4 billion since 2017. With construction season in full swing, authorities say that Michigan motorists can expect to see an almost unprecedented level of construction and repairs.

“We are on the right path to fund repairs to our roads and bridges,” said Rep. Eric Leutheuser, R-Hillsdale. “This budget does a good job planning ahead for future fixes we know we’ll need.”

A partial list of major 2018 road projects can be found here on the Michigan Department of Transportation website. Check your county news sources for additional construction that may be occurring.

 

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Shirkey supports Jackson road funding in Michigan budget

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey voted to approve an additional $330 million in road funding for the 2018-2019 state budget. This is the eighth year in a row the Republican-led Legislature has passed a balanced budget ahead of schedule.

Among the many infrastructure projects, the state will spend millions of dollars in Jackson County to make significant upgrades to a stretch of I-94 between M-60 and Sargent Road. This section of road is instrumental for transportation and trade in the state. The upgrades will also qualify the stretch of road for future federal funding.

“The roads in Jackson County are in need of significant repair,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This additional funding will help keep our motorists safe and our transportation infrastructure usable for residents and visitors.”

Roads have consistently been the top issue for many Michigan residents. The new budget additions will bring the total added investment in roads to $2.4 billion since 2017. With construction season in full swing, authorities say that Michigan motorists can expect to see an almost unprecedented level of construction and repairs.

A partial list of major 2018 road projects can be found here on the Michigan Department of Transportation website. Check your county news sources for additional construction that may be occurring.

 

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Shirkey supports prevailing wage repeal

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey and the Michigan Legislature on Wednesday approved a ballot initiative to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law.

A ballot by labor interest group Protect Michigan Taxpayers received a sufficient number of signatures to be either considered by the Legislature for approval into law or to be included on the November ballot for voter approval. The proposal passed both chambers of the Legislature.

The prevailing wage law was a requirement that labor costs for government-funded projects must meet the local wages and benefits customary to the area where the construction is taking place.

The law has been criticized for its cost-inflating effects, which can raise the price of a public construction project well above that paid for private sector work. Estimates show that costs can increase by 10 to 15 percent on a given project, and that prevailing wage has cost Michigan schools and universities an extra $200 million per year.

“The purpose of a union is to negotiate fair wages for their members,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “If the prices have been fixed by prevailing wage this whole time, what have the unions been doing besides kicking up their feet and taking cuts of their members’ paychecks?”

Others have criticized the exclusionary effect of prevailing wage, saying it shuts out inexperienced tradesmen and adds barriers to workers who didn’t or couldn’t get a union construction job.

Shirkey said that while this law had negative statewide repercussions, local governments and school districts were the most hurt by its extra costs.

“Construction workers pay taxes, too,” Shirkey said. “They should be just as offended by careless spending that raises their taxes and hurts the credit health of their local communities by making the municipalities take out bigger loans at higher interest to pay for the public construction work.”

The procedure of legislative initiatives does not require the governor’s signature, so the changes  to this law take effect immediately.

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Medicaid workforce engagement approved by Legislature

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate finalized legislation Thursday to increase workforce engagement among Healthy Michigan Medicaid recipients.

Senate Bill 897 would require able-bodied adults between ages 19 and 62 to spend an average of 80 hours per month working, undergoing job training or getting a formal education in order to receive Healthy Michigan benefits. By comparison, the average full-time employee works 160 hours per month.

“There are now more job openings than people looking for work,” said Sen. Mike Shirkey, the sponsor of the bill. “However, there are still people not looking for work at all. This bill is a way to reach out to those Michiganders and show them the life-changing benefits of work.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings has surpassed the number of people counted as unemployed for the first time since record-keeping began. BLS numbers also show that re-entrants, people who were previously not looking for work, are consistently one of the largest groups entering the workforce.

The bill only applies to Healthy Michigan recipients and has a wide variety of exemptions, which include seniors citizens, pregnant women, caretakers of children under age six, people with disabilities and their caregivers, the medically frail, people with medical conditions that impact their ability to work, and others.

Shirkey said the bill offers many choices for Healthy Michigan recipients to maintain their benefits and various ways to leave the program when they are ready.

“We originally planned for workforce engagement like this, but the Obama administration shut the door on those options,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “We’ve now got an administration that understands the value of work and the proper role of entitlements as a hand up, not a handout. I’m excited to see the mission of Healthy Michigan fully realized.”

Shirkey was one of Healthy Michigan’s biggest proponents. He said the changes in this bill were required to keep the program solvent and to structure it in a way that directs limited resources to the people who need it most.

“Medicaid is intended to help people experiencing challenging circumstances to become more secure and independent,” Shirkey said. “It’s ironic to oppose a provision that helps people, in a program designed to help people — and many people see that irony.”

A recent Rasmussen poll showed that 64 percent of Americans think that able-bodied adults without children should be required to work as a condition for receiving Medicaid. Polls by Gallop have shown that gainful employment is closely associated with economic, psychological and social wellbeing.

SB 897 now heads to the governor to be signed into law. Should the bill become law, it would require approval from the federal government through a waiver. If Michigan receives a waiver, changes to Medicaid benefits would not occur until January 2020.

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Sen. Shirkey welcomes honored guests for 24th Senate Memorial Day Service

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, (left) was honored to welcome Master Sgt. Julius Gimesky of the U.S. Army Air Corps and his daughter and son-in-law to the Michigan capitol Thursday.

Gimesky was an honorary guest of Shirkey for the 24th Annual Senate Memorial Day Service. The event is held each year to honor the fallen servicemen and servicewomen who have died in the line of duty.

Gimesky, at a stout 100 years old, was one of the oldest service members in attendance. During his time in the Air Corps, he served at Hickman Field on Dec. 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In civilian life, Gimesky worked at Consumers Energy. He now resides in Jackson.

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

Senate approves Shirkey’s Medicaid funding replacement

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved Sen. Mike Shirkey’s legislation to reduce health insurance costs and enact a reliable source of funding for the state’s Medicaid program.

“It is finally time to end Michigan’s burdensome and costly Health Insurance Claims Assessment,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This legislation would provide substantial relief to individuals and businesses who purchase health insurance while also ensuring our Medicaid program has consistent funding to adequately meet the health care needs of struggling families.”

Senate Bills 992-994 would repeal the state’s Health Insurance Claims Assessment (HICA) and replace it with a new Insurance Provider Assessment (IPA) that would assess Medicaid providers — who benefit from the Medicaid program — at a higher rate than commercial insurance. Other states have adopted a similar concept with success.

Shirkey sponsored SB 994, which would create the new IPA. The bill would lock commercial rates into law and provide flexibility for the state to meet federal Medicaid requirements.

The bill would require a federal waiver of at least five years to provide stability to the state and commercial insurers.

“This is a long-term, sustainable solution to the highly complex problem of funding Medicaid,” Shirkey said. “The plan offers a better, fairer and more stable revenue source for Medicaid and also helps reduce the cost of health insurance for Michigan families and small businesses.”

Under the Senate bills, every commercial insurance provider who currently pays HICA would pay less, and self-funded plans and dental providers would be completely exempt.

SBs 992-994 received near-unanimous support in the Senate and have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Grass Lake cross is secure and will continue to be an honored landmark of Jackson County

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, responded to constituent concerns after the long-standing cross atop Sackrider Hill was removed.

“After many conversations, the Department of Natural Resources and the Grass Lake Ministerial Association, the organization that owns and installed the cross, have come to an agreement. The monument will be displayed at religious celebrations, but will otherwise be stored safely,” Shirkey said.

The Sackrider Hill cross has been the target of recent criticism, with some activist groups claiming that the cross installation on public land violates the First Amendment separation of government and religion.

“My office has been contacted by concerned citizens worried about the cross,” Shirkey said. “Many people noticed its disappearance and sought answers. We’ve been contacting the parties involved and wanted to pass along this information to the public.”

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Sen. Shirkey ranks near top of economic freedom survey

LANSING, Mich. — A grassroots advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, released their 2017 Economic Freedom Scorecard for Michigan legislators. Among the top-ranked senators is Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

The scorecard uses voting records from key legislation of the previous year to calculate each senator’s commitment to standards of economic freedom.

Shirkey ranks fourth on the list, behind fellow Republican senators Patrick Colbeck, Judy Emmons and Joe Hune.

Among the 19 bills analyzed for the scorecard are two pieces of legislation introduced by Shirkey himself: Public Act 98 of 2017 (Senate Bill 249) and Senate Bill 541. PA 98 closed unfair loopholes that harmed charter schools and SB 541 would expand access to dental care services.

“I’m proud to be in the top five of Michigan’s most dedicated public servants to economic freedom,” Shirkey said. “Economic freedom is directly linked to personal freedom, and America has a tradition of respecting the individual and the sanctity of self-determination.”

Americans for Prosperity is a national grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the policies and goals of a free society. Among other principles, the organization advocates for limited government, low taxes and increased opportunities for work and achievement.

“I will continue to work for a freer, more prosperous Michigan,” Shirkey said. “It’s an honor and a blessing to wake up every morning and go to work for the people of Michigan with that goal in mind.”

 

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Sen. Shirkey supports school safety budget increase

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey voted Thursday to support an additional $18.6 million dedicated to school safety initiatives in Michigan schools.

“Until we can effectively address the mental disorders or warped ideologies that cause these incidents, we should take proactive measures to protect our children and to secure our schools,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

Senate Bill 601 includes $15 million for security grants available to both individual schools and school districts. The funding structure encourages local matches to boost funding even more.

Additionally, $650,000 will go toward further integrating the OK2SAY reporting tool into school safety programs and an additional $3 million will go toward building a school safety communication application to better coordinate on-site staff and first responders.

“This funding is a great step toward making our schools a safer, more enjoyable place to learn,” Shirkey said. “Safety upgrades will apply to many different types of emergencies, so this is a valuable investment in our school infrastructure all around. We should continue to be vigilant for potential threats and not feel embarrassed to speak up about concerns. The safety of our children is a duty we all share.”

Shirkey encouraged parents to research OK2SAY and to talk with their children about family safety plans and what to do in case of an emergency, both at school and at home.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

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Sen. Shirkey’s Medicaid workforce engagement bill passes Senate

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate passed legislation on Thursday to boost workforce engagement among Medicaid recipients, said Sen. Mike Shirkey, the sponsor of the bill.

Senate Bill 897 would require adults between ages 19-64 to spend an average of 29 hours a week working, undergoing job training or getting formal education to receive Medicaid benefits.

“There’s going to be a lot of misinformation about this bill, but it’s really a positive thing for everyone — including those currently on Medicaid,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “The people who need it most will not be impacted by this bill at all, and everyone can maintain their Medicaid benefits if they participate in one of the many options for work or education.”

The bill provides exemptions from the new rules for numerous groups of people, including seniors, pregnant women, caretakers of children under age 6, people with disabilities and their caregivers, the medically frail, people with medical conditions that impact their ability to work, and others.

Temporary exemptions would be given for certain circumstances like the birth or death of a family member, temporary illness or injury, or a family emergency.

“As Americans we should view poverty as a state of being, not a class of people,” Shirkey said. “This is still the land of opportunity, and it’s our duty as public leaders to foster an environment where individuals have the freedom to earn a rewarding living through good work.”

The earliest the plan could be implemented with approval from the federal government would be October 2019. No changes to Medicaid benefits would occur before then.

SB 897 now heads to the Michigan House for consideration.

 

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