By state Rep. Rodney Wakeman
As the peak holiday season rapidly approaches, Michigan’s tourism communities like Frankenmuth are still reeling from the political vetoes used by the governor when she slashed nearly $1 billion from the state budget.
Through ultimatums, a record 147 line-item vetoes and an unconventional, unilateral power grab to transfer funds through an administrative board, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used the jobs and livelihoods of those in our communities as bargaining chips in her reckless pursuit of the highest gas tax in the country.
The result? More than $37 million eliminated from the state’s popular advertising campaign, Pure Michigan, which promotes Michigan travel and tourism – eradicating the highly successful program in its entirety. The popular ad campaign has greatly benefited the city of Frankenmuth since 2008 and yields an impressive return on investment statewide.
The Pure Michigan campaign is much more than Tim Allen voice-over commercials and billboards along I-75. It’s an investment that extends much further than Michigan workers and businesses. It’s an investment in our state.
Michigan has so much to offer. Attracting visitors and tourists across the country, the Pure Michigan program has helped bolster our state’s tourism industry – a vital source of tax revenue for a variety of essential services, including K-12 education, law enforcement and our roadways. These are also taxpayer priorities the governor gut funding for with her budget cuts.
In 2018 alone, tourism generated $2.8 billion in state and local tax revenue. Every dollar spent on Pure Michigan yielded a return on investment of $9. As a business owner, I would take that ROI in a heartbeat and would do everything I could to not jeopardize its success. Putting an end to Pure Michigan only squanders a sufficient source of tax income and has the real potential to cause severe damage to hundreds of thousands of Michigan jobs supported by travel tourism – including in Frankenmuth and surrounding communities.
The governor refuses to acknowledge the danger she has put families in who depend on tourism dollars to make ends meet at home and the economic impact it will soon have has on the state due to her cuts to Pure Michigan. And for what? To somehow resurrect her failed 45-cent per gallon gas tax – the tax that would cost hard-working Michigan residents an additional $6 to $10 per fill up, and the tax that the governor’s own Democrat House Minority Leader said wouldn’t pass.
She’s also withholding investments to our students, seniors, veterans and public safety. I voted for a bipartisan, fiscally sound budget plan that reflected the priorities of every taxpayer across Michigan. The state budget we delivered to the governor increased investments in our roads and students, and fully funded veterans and senior services statewide – all without burdening Saginaw County families with tax increases.
It’s been more than six weeks since the governor’s budget cuts, and Michiganders are starting to feel the pain. While the governor – and only the governor – owns this mess, I realize the people of Saginaw County are less interested in blame and more interested in action.
As your state representative, I have listened to each and every one of your concerns and am continuing to work earnestly with my colleagues in the Legislature to strike an agreement with the governor to undo the damage done by her cuts.
I won’t stop fighting for the budget priorities of Saginaw County and I will continue to stand up for the very people the governor swore to protect.