Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Q&A with Sen. Tom George (R-20th District)

Sen. Tom George is currently serving his second term in the Michigan Senate and is a candidate for governor in next year's election. He is a medical doctor and a history buff. He recently and graciously agreed to answer some questions related to his campaign to become Michigan's next Republican governor.

1. Would you, during the campaign, be willing to sign a pledge indicating that you would not raise taxes? If not, are there specific taxes you would be willing to raise, under certain circumstances?

No, I will not sign a pledge to not raise taxes as I have always made it a policy and practice to not sign any kind of pledge. I believe it would be imprudent of a gubernatorial candidate to take such a pledge.

2. Being a doctor certainly gives you more insight into the healthcare industry than most of us have, and being a senator gives you more insight into the workings of government than most of us have. What other qualities do you think you have that prepare you to become Michigan's next governor?

Having maintained an active career outside of the legislature is an advantage that no other candidate can claim. I continue to work at the hospital, including some nights and weekends when the legislature is not in session. This puts me in touch with the many challenges that people are facing on a regular basis. It also gives me special insight into the strengths and weaknesses of our health care system.

Fixing health care is one of the keys to fixing Michigan’s economy and turning our state around. One of the lessons my medical practice has taught me is that the health of a population and subsequent health care costs largely reflect health behaviors. With health care costs now the single largest expense in the state budget, the state’s ability to lure jobs, fix its infrastructure, and provide tax cuts will in part depend on the next governor’s ability to improve the health behavior of our citizens.

Having legislative experience is also important as fixing Michigan will require using the legislative process. Governor Engler was a skilled legislator and this helped make him an effective governor. In contrast, Governor Granholm’s lack of legislative experience has at times been apparent.

Outside of the legislature, I have provided volunteer service to several organizations. These experiences enhance my credentials. For example, in 2008, I co-chaired MI-Cause, the statewide coalition which formed to oppose last fall’s embryo research ballot proposal. I have served as president of the Historical Society of Michigan, a statewide non-profit group founded in 1828 to promote and preserve the history of our state. In 1998 I chaired the Kalamazoo Coalition for Appropriate and Compassionate Care, a group which formed to oppose the assisted-suicide ballot proposal.

As a physician, I served as a medical volunteer in Tanzania, Africa, and on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia. For 24 years, I have been a member of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine’s volunteer faculty. I have also published articles in both medical journals and history magazines.

On a personal note, I have been married to my wife, Sandy for almost 30 years and we have three children.

Continuing to hold a part-time job while serving in the legislature, demonstrating leadership, serving as a volunteer, and maintaining one’s marriage vows are all important indicators of character which may be important to voters in the gubernatorial race.

3. You will no doubt be reminded during the campaign about your vote on the early morning of 10/1/07 to raise taxes. In retrospect, do you regret that vote, or do you feel that it was necessary? Why?

I do not regret my 2007 vote to raise the state income tax.

It should be noted that in 2007, I voted for a billion dollars in spending cuts as well as voting to raise the state income tax from 3.9 to 4.35%. Together this combination would have been sufficient to balance the budget. Unlike many of my colleagues, I actually voted for a package of bills that taken together would have produced a balanced budget without the need for the adoption of Governor Granholm’s service tax, which I opposed, and which was later converted, to the business tax surcharge.

My vote helped end a government shutdown, and create a balanced budget, which is one of my constitutional duties. Given the circumstances, it was the prudent action to take. (It also should be noted that during nine of the twelve years that Governor Engler was in office, the income tax was greater than its current rate of 4.35%.)

4. You are known to be a history buff. Can you think of any historical parallels in U.S. History to the current state of affairs in Michigan?

There have been several instances of economic crises in Michigan’s past. Boom and bust cycles have been caused by land speculation, canal building boondoggles, timber industry cycles, war, and the great depression. On more than one occasion economic turmoil has contributed to a call for a constitutional convention. The Constitutional Convention of 1961-2, in part, stemmed from state budget problems in the late 1950’s.

Applying the lessons of the past to today would suggest that though Republicans may not support the call for a constitutional convention which will appear on the 2010 ballot, we should be prepared in the event it is adopted.

5. Looking back over your time in the legislature, of what achievements are you the most pleased?

I represent a senate district that, like Michigan as a whole, is about 53% Democratic. My district has voted for Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama and Jennifer Granholm. Yet, I am a conservative, pro-life Republican and have managed to win elections repeatedly there. I am now serving in my ninth year in the legislature. I believe I have been able to represent my district ably because I am a good listener, and because I have found a way to apply Republican principles to the problems of the day in a constructive manner. In a similar fashion, for a Republican to win the governor’s race in 2010, we must have a candidate with the right temperament and skills -- a candidate who knows how to win; a candidate who knows how to use Republican solutions to fix our state.

Thank you, Senator George!

1 comment:

a CR for Tom George! said...


What a wonderful candidate & a wonderful man. Michigan NEEDS Senator George to fix it---Michigan is BROKEN!