Thursday, June 11, 2009

Q&A With Rep. Larry DeShazor (R-61st District, Kalamazoo County)

Rep. Larry DeShazor is a first-term Republican representative from the western side of Kalamazoo County. He won the seat formerly held by Jack Hoogendyk. He graciously agreed to take some time to answer some questions for this blog.

1) You are new to the legislature this year, and in the minority party. What have you been able to accomplish so far?

First off, the pace of the legislature to this point has been slow. Unfortunately, this is not under my control as a member of the Republican minority. So far, the issues that have come up before the legislature are not focusing on the key issues that I feel Michigan needs to work on most. These issues are jobs, jobs and more jobs.

As for my accomplishments so far, I have continued to reach out to my constituents and keep a pulse on what their concerns are. Property Taxes and declining values will continue to be an important issue for the next few years. In response, I hosted 2 town hall meetings to inform my constituents about their options to appeal their property tax assessments. On the policy front, I have introduced legislation to address another major issue in Michigan, unemployment. The bill I introduced would eliminate the state income tax requirement for individuals receiving unemployment benefits. In my opinion, it doesn't make sense to tax families during one of the most difficult times in their lives.

2) The budget of the state of Michigan requires change, and soon. What areas of the budget do you think most deserve to be cut? Should the per-pupil school funding monies be cut?

The budget is, and will continue to be, the biggest issue in Michigan for years to come if true reforms are not implemented to deal with our structural deficit. Simple reforms, such as privatizing food services in our prisons, could save the state up to $40 million per year.

As for per-pupil school funding, the allotment amount cannot be cut if the state wants to accept millions of dollars in stimulus money. Maintaining our state's investment in education is important, but I think the main focus for funding in schools needs be how that money is spent. Ensuring that more money reaches the classroom is vital to our children's futures.

3) Is there any type of tax increase that you would support this year to balance the state budget? Or do you oppose all attempts at increasing taxes?

This year is going to be tough when you consider the $1 billion hole we need to plug before October 1st. However, increasing taxes will not solve Michigan's problems. The general tax increases that were passed in 2007 have obviously not had the impact their proponents had hoped. At this point, I think all taxes, tax incentives, tax abatements and spending needs to be considered. The problems Michigan is facing aren't new and won't be solved overnight. Now is the time for lawmakers to come together and examine all these issues to come up with a fair and equitable tax system to all of Michigan's families and businesses.

4) As a state representative with its unique perspective, how do you see Gov. Granholm's policies and decisions affecting your own district?

Overall, I think the piecemeal approach to attracting businesses and job providers to this state simply isn't working. The government's job isn't to pick winners and losers with tax policy. Focusing on a strong infrastructure, a great quality of life and reasonable across the board tax policy will help create and retain jobs. I served as a Portage City Councilman for 6 years, and this was our formula for combating many of the negative trends throughout other parts of Michigan.

5) Is there any particular tidbit about yourself that you would like the people of your district to know?

I would like to express what an honor it is to serve the people of the 61st House District in Lansing. The citizens of our state need to remain hopeful during this difficult time. We need to learn from our past mistakes and work to ensure that we have a productive future. I know that Michigan will emerge from this challenging economic environment, and I look forward to being a part of the transformation.

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