Dave Buskirk has served for 20 years on the Kalamazoo County Commission. He's been chairman and vice chairman of the board at various times.
Buskirk is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 60th House District, which includes the city of Kalamazoo. The district is currently represented by Democrat Sean McCann, who is running for state Senate.
Buskirk sat down with WMUK's Gordon and Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Yvonne Zipp to discuss his candidacy for state House. Buskirk says his experience and knowledge of state issues would serve the area well. The "semi-retired" electrician says he wants to focus on good jobs, education and helping the less-fortunate. A summary of issues:
State lawmakers have been debating whether to raise the gas tax or vehicle fees to pay for road improvements. Buskirk says he could vote for an increase in the gas tax to fund infrastructure. But he says it has to be part of a long-term reform of road funding. Buskirk says money from the gas tax should be designated for roads. But he says the tax structure should be changed so school funding is not cut.
Buskirk says not enough money earmarked for education is getting into the classroom. He says the core curriculum is a "good start." But he says there should be flexibility allowed for local schools and districts.
When asked how one person can reach across the partisan divide, Buskirk says he has done that as a county commissioner. He says reaching across the aisle can be done without "sacrificing your values."
The interview with Buskirk was recorded before Governor Snyder said he wanted lawmakers to consider changing the state's non-discrimination law to include sexual orientation. Buskirk it should be changed, and says he would also favor repealing the amendment to the state Constitution that bans same-sex marriage. Buskirk calls it "an insult to human beings."
When asked about any possible decriminalization of marijuana, Buskirk says it's not something he knows a lot about. But he says jails should not be filled with people who have smoked small amounts of marijuana. However, Buskirk says the possibility of marijuana use leading to harder drugs also has to be considered.
Right to Work
Buskirk says he would work to repeal the "right to work" law. He thinks there could be support in the Legislature for a repeal. But Buskirk says the law wouldn't have happened if a proposal to guarantee collective bargaining rights had not been on the ballot in 2012.
Other issues were discussed, but were edited from the air version of the interview for time, these can be found in the full web version.
The interview was recorded before the House and Senate approved an increase in the state minimum wage that was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. Buskirk says it would be hard not to vote for some increase in the minimum wage. Buskirk says he supports the $10.10 an hour minimum wage proposed in a ballot initiative, but says there would be problems with that proposal. He would also support tying the minimum wage to inflation. But Buskirk says it depends on how the rate of inflation is calculated.
Allied Paper Landfill
A tour of the landfill was held just before Buskirk came to WMUK for the interview. He says cleaning up the entire site is the only acceptable option. Buskirk says part of the strategy should be to find another use for the land that would put it on the tax rolls if it is cleaned up.
When asked what sets him apart from other Democrats running for state House, Buskirk says his experience and leadership abilities. He says he can build consensus on critical issues. Buskirk says most of his support comes from within the 60th state House district. Buskirk says the atmosphere at the state Capitol is too contentious. He says that's in part because of term limits.