There will be a new representative in Michigan's 62nd state House District next year.
Democrat Kate Segal cannot run again for re-election because of term limits. Battle Creek City Commissioner Andy Helmboldt hopes to be the next representative for the district that includes the city of Battle Creek. He says his priorities are high quality education for every child and a healthy economy that works for everyone. Helboldt sat down with WMUK's Gordon Evans and Battle Creek Enquirer reporter Jennifer Bowman. A summary:
The interview with Helmboldt was recorded before the state Legislature went on break for the summer without reaching agreement on a road funding package. He says Michigan's budget structure is not set up well for infrastructure. Helmboldt says an increase in the gas tax is appropriate for raising money to fix roads. But he says other options have to be considered as people find ways to drive less or otherwise purchase less gasoline. Helmboldt says higher vehicle registration fees and higher costs for heavier trucks could be options.
Personal Property Tax
The lone ballot issue in August is a repeal of the state's Personal Property Tax. Helmboldt says he supports repeal of the tax. He says there is "reasonable assurance" that the money raised by the tax for local units of government will be replaced.
Helmboldt says an increase in the state minimum wage was long overdue. He would have liked a larger increase than the one signed into law by Governor Snyder. That brought the minimum wage in Michigan to $9.25 an hour by 2018. A ballot initiative sought a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. Helmboldt says he would have voted for the increase, which he says is a good compromise. He says it's a positive step to index the wage to inflation.
Governor Rick Snyder says he would like lawmakers to consider amending the state's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Helmboldt says he supports adding those protections. He also believes same-sex marriage should be legal. Voters approved a ban on gay marriage in 2004. Federal courts are deciding whether that will stand. Helmboldt says rights should not subject to a vote of the people. When asked about religious rights conflicting with protections against discrimination, Helmboldt says churches and groups which are religious in nature should have exemptions, but he says doing business in the public marketplace "means everyone is welcome in that marketplace."
Helmboldt says he's not sure that marijuana should be legal. But he is in favor of decriminalizing pot. Helmboldt says the "war on drugs" has been a failure, and more effort should be focused on rehabilitation and helping people who have problems with addiction.
Other issues can be heard in the web version of the interview.
Helmboldt says Michigan's tax structure can be changed, and could be simplified. He says repealing the Personal Property Tax is one step in that direction. Helmboldt says he would be willing to shift some of the tax burden to sales tax. He says the state needs to figure out what it needs to fund programs. Helmboldt says administrative costs should not keep money from getting to programs that people want.
Asked about how to train workers and diversify the economy, Helmboldt says there are some good examples of partnerships in Battle Creek which have helped to train workers. He says there is still a demand of skilled trade jobs that aren't being met in the labor market. Helmboldt says career and technical education needs to be expanded, and he says entrepreneurship needs more support. He says that would also help attract more young professionals.
The cereal company announced earlier this year that they would be moving some jobs from Battle Creek to Grand Rapids. Asked what role the state or local leaders play in working with the company, Helmboldt says the announcement showed a disconnect between Kellogg and the community. He says both sides have been making efforts to improve that relationship. Helmboldt says he believes that Kellogg is still committed to Battle Creek. He says the city has to show that it's committed to being a good place for the company and its workers.
State Representative Kate Segal has not endorsed a candidate in the race to succeed her. Asked about her lack of endorsement, Helmboldt says it's not surprising, and he's concentrating on running his own campaign.