|Nick Kennedy of Wixom is the retired president and CEO of Michigan Office Maintenance, Inc. He is the chairman of the Wixom Community Foundation, a member of the Wixom Planning Commission and past president of the Passing Along the Heritage Foundation. A graduate of Livonia Stevenson High School, he was the 2008 recipient of the Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen of the Year award.|
Albert Clawson, Brad Hantler, Nicholas Kennedy, Klint Kesto, Bubba Urdan and Kristine Zrinyi will compete in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary election for the Republican nomination for 39th state House District representing Commerce Township, Wolverine Lake and Wixom. State representatives serve two-year terms and are currently paid $71,685 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Kennedy and his response to those questions.
BUDGET: After years of 11th-hour approvals of state budgets and criticisms of kicking the can down the road on critical fiscal issues, lawmakers have in two consecutive years passed spending plans that have scaled back state spending through tough cuts in certain areas. If elected to the state House of Representatives, what would be your budgeting priorities and why? Do you believe further cuts are needed, and if so, where? Please state where, if anywhere, investments in key areas are necessary?
KENNEDY: Top budget priorities are education for our youth, health and human services for our senior citizens and public safety for everyone. Investing in our youth will help them develop the skills necessary to meet the demands of our Michigan employers. We owe it to our seniors to provide them with top-notch health care. Strong public safety helps reduce crime and demands on our prison system.
I support the governor’s “Good Government” initiative that focuses on lean, efficient operating departments, as a way to help achieve more budget cuts across the board. We need to continue to make more reforms in government spending by eliminating duplicated services.
I support additional investments in education. Job creation is my top priority, but we need youth with the skills to meet the demand of our Michigan employers. That’s how jobs are created.
EDUCATION: Officials representing public school districts have decried what they have said amounted to a $470 per-pupil decrease in education funding instituted during the first year of the 96th state legislative session, particularly when districts had already been grappling with serious structural deficits in the years leading up to implementation of the 2011-12 fiscal year budget. Tell us what you believe needs to be done to be sure our schools are funded adequately. Aside from funding issues, what reforms to the state’s educational system are needed to ensure Michigan’s children receive the education they deserve?
KENNEDY: I believe Michigan children are our most important natural resource. The best way to adequately fund our K-12 education system is to ensure that the funds earmarked for the state aid budget actually go into the school aid budget. Recently, these educational dollars have been used for General Fund expenses. That was not the original intent of Proposal A legislation back in the mid-1990s. We also need to shift funding from universities back to K-12 education. Colleges can raise revenue through tuition, public schools can’t.
In terms of education reforms, I believe that professional development of our teachers is the key to a quality education. It’s a classroom teacher’s ability to connect with students that really energizes the learning experience. I support Lansing’s new focus on teacher evaluations and accountability to ensure that these “connections” are part of our culture.
PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX: A spate of measures to either repeal or phase out the state’s personal property tax (PPT) have received the attention of both chambers of the state Legislature this year, prompting concerns among some about how those dollars would be replaced for local communities reliant on PPT revenues. Do you support a repeal or phase-out of the PPT? Why or why not? If a repeal or phase-out is passed, how, if at all, should the state replace those revenues for local units of government?
KENNEDY: The creation of jobs is my No. 1 priority. I am a fiscal conservative who supports a business-friendly economic environment. Therefore, I support elimination of the personal property tax. We need to continue to create an economic climate that will draw businesses into Michigan.
Having said that, I understand how the elimination of this tax is detrimental to our local communities of Wixom, West Bloomfield and Commerce Township. Our local municipalities need these revenues to operate at current levels of service. These revenues must be replaced. Therefore, I support the “poison pill” clause, which is an amendment to the PPT law. It says that if the state fails to produce the promised replacement revenue, the whole thing falls apart and personal property tax is still in place.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Four years after the passage of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) following voter approval in the 2008 general election with overwhelming support, local communities are still grappling with its impacts and how to go about addressing its provisions. Explain why you do or don’t believe additional regulations or measures need to be implemented for the MMMA? Do you believe a recent proposal in the state House of Representatives calling for the legalization of so-called “dispensaries” has merit? Why or why not?
KENNEDY: Although I don’t support the use of marijuana, I respect that voters passed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, and we need to follow that law in conjunction with existing federal legislation. I think what the voters wanted was compassionate care of certain classes of individuals, but some facilities fail to do this. I support the current proposal that would prohibit anyone with felony convictions from working inside or operating dispensaries. The bill would also require all potential dispensary employees to undergo background checks.
ROAD FUNDING FORMULA: The state’s current road funding distribution formula places more emphasis on the miles of roadway in a county than on traffic density, which tends to favor rural, out-state counties. Please explain why you do or don’t believe that scenario is appropriate. What funding distribution formula changes, if any, should be implemented? Explain why you do or don’t support increases in state fuel taxes to close the gap between available funding and infrastructure needs?
KENNEDY: We need to re-evaluate the road funding formula with the expressed purpose of not creating new taxes. We need a combination of revenue-generating options to fund our roads. It’s not about raising taxes. It’s about how we spend existing revenues in a cost-efficient manner to repair and restore our roads.
The road funding formula needs to focus on traffic density. That’s our biggest short-term need. I support state fuel taxes to help fund infrastructure needs, but these fuel taxes need to be supplemented by other revenue sources, such as increased license fees for hybrid and electric vehicles. The influx of “green” cars, while great for our environment, results in less state fuel taxes. That revenue needs to be replaced to help support our infrastructure needs.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the district at this time, and how do you propose to address them?
KENNEDY: The creation of jobs is my top priority. We need to continue to make Michigan employer friendly. The job market in Michigan is progressing under Republican leadership. We need to continue on a path that allows Michigan employers to hire and feel secure in a business-friendly environment. That is how jobs are created.
No. 2, no new taxes. There have been a number of tax reforms in Michigan to support job providers. Any increase in taxes would work to undue these reforms. I am not in favor of raising taxes.
No. 3, transparent and limited government. I support Gov. (Rick) Snyder’s focus on transparent and limited government. He is the first governor to actually look at budgets from a “revenue-expense” perspective, and then openly propose to limit spending only based on what revenue is generated.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
KENNEDY: The serious nature of our weakened economy has inspired me to be your representative because we share the core conservative values that are needed in Lansing. Michigan has been through a lot, and our local area has not been spared the hardship. The closing of the Ford Wixom Plant, and the loss of many other small businesses, has had a terrible effect on our local municipalities.
I am a small business owner. I understand what it takes to create jobs, and have done so for more than 30 years. We need a representative who has the real life, and real world, business experience to help lead Michigan back to its glory.
I am a long-time resident of our community. I am a homeowner and parent. I have volunteered to assist as the chair of the Wixom Community Foundation, as a Wixom planning commissioner and as a Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts. I also have been a strong supporter of our military, with the sending of tons of materials to deployed soldiers.