|Kristine Zrinyi is a speaker on behalf of consumer education programs representing Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and a former director of Volunteers for Hospice. She has been a board member for Country Oaks and Oak Valley schools PTAs, served on the Oakland County Women’s Advisory Commission, and done work for Relay for Life. Born and raised in Ohio, Zrinyi and her husband have three adopted children.|
Six Republicans — Albert Clawson, Brad Hantler, Nicholas Kennedy, Klint Kesto, Bubba Urdan and Kristine Zrinyi — are competing in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 GOP primary election for the state House of Representatives 39th District. The winner will face the winner of the Democratic nomination on Nov. 6. State representatives serve two-year terms and are currently paid
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Zrinyi and her 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?
ZRINYI: Over the course of the past two years, the leadership in Lansing has made much needed spending cuts and tax reforms, but there is still lots of work to be done. My main priority would be to balance the budget with no exceptions. The spending cuts over the past two years have lead to Michigan having it’s largest rainy day fund in about 10 years. Now we must take a look at every program and cut any wasteful spending. We must not spend more than we take in.
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?
ZRINYI: For years, school budgets have seen increasing structural deficits due to administrative costs significantly increasing, resulting in less money that is actually going to our students. Although cuts were made in the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget. I was glad to see that in the 2013 budget, K-12 spending will be increased by $200.5 million over current levels. This means, by reducing administrative costs and increasing the amount funded to our schools, more money in our schools’ budget will go toward educating our children.
One thing that I would implement, so that all of our children and young people get the education they deserve, would be increasing the number of trade schools and skilled training programs in Michigan. Let’s face it, not all skilled jobs require a degree, and college isn’t for everybody. So let’s ensure that all of our young people will be trained and ready to take on the jobs that will become available in the future. I am currently working as a contract worker for the (state) Attorney General’s Office as a Cyber Safety Initiative educator. I know the importance of providing sound education service to our children.
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?
ZRINYI: The personal property tax has been a burden on most businesses and must be reformed. Our Legislature has taken action by phasing out the PPT over the next 10 years, creating a better business climate for Michigan, as well as lessening the financial burden on families. The Senate also has passed a bill reimbursing municipalities for a total of 81 percent of lost revenue from the PPT (repeal) with funds freed up by expiring tax credits. As legislatures, we must ensure that the other 19 percent of lost revenue will be replaced. Our municipalities depend on those revenues to function.
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?
ZRINYI: The Michigan voters decided clearly four years ago, by a wide margin that medical marijuana should be legal. With that said, we must ensure that the law is very specific so that everyone understands what you can and can’t do. I saw first-hand when working with hospice the benefits to some patients who faced complete nausea and vomiting and were helped. However, we must be sure to educate those prescribing and dispensing (medical marijuana) are following the letter of the law. As far as the dispensaries go, I believe it is up to each individual
municipality to allow dispensaries, (and) if so, how many they will allow. If dispensaries are allowed, then they must be highly regulated so absolutely no illegal activity is going on. Dispensaries were made so that patients (particularly seniors) had an easier avenue to buy their compassion care medicine.
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?
ZRINYI: Michigan’s road funding formula does seem to be failing. I would like to see the infrastructure that receives the most punishment from traffic to receive more funding. By doing this, we would need to change the formula we currently have. If we were to average the amount of traffic and the miles of roadway, this would favor these high density areas as well as provide enough funding for those that don’t receive as much damage.
I do not support increases to the state’s gas tax. Michiganders are already feeling the effects of high gas prices and we shouldn’t increase that financial burden.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the district at this time, and how do you propose to address them?
ZRINYI: The economy is key. Sixty-percent of new jobs are created by small businesses. We need to continue to foster small business growth and make Michigan the best state to do business in. Housing values will begin to rebound as we put more of our young people and displaced workers back on the payroll. Supporting the education system is key. We must examine ways to reduce administrative costs as a way of putting that money back into the classroom. Having been involved for over 15 years in my children’s education, I know the importance of needing to make sure our schools are adequately funded.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
ZRINYI: Michigan is in a very delicate position and we cannot revert back to the old ways of kicking the can down the road or pandering to special interest groups. I am the common-sense solutions candidate. If it’s not broke, we won’t fix it. If it needs (to be) fixed, I will find the best possible solution to fix the problem.
I believe that I will most represent the interests of our community and will never succumb to special interests. We must create an environment where Michigan is the best place to do business and keep our young people in Michigan. That’s why I’m running. I have three adopted children, two of whom are in college, and I want them to have the opportunity to stay in Michigan. I know the importance of creating jobs that will allow our residents to stay in our communities. I promise to restore honor and integrity in Lansing, and hold every Legislature accountable for their actions.