Senate passes expansion of successful jobs training program

LANSING—The Michigan Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would expand the Michigan New Jobs Training Program (MNJTP), a successful statewide initiative established in 2008 to promote job growth and provide skilled training to workers through local community colleges.

The MNJTP lets community colleges statewide create a training pool through flexible financing mechanisms to support employers who are creating jobs or expanding operations in Michigan. Senate Bills 69–71 would remove certain technical restrictions to allow the program to grow.

“The Michigan New Jobs Training Program has been a great success, producing nearly 12,000 new jobs since its inception,” said the sponsor of SB 71, Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. “The program brings together educators, students eager to be trained for skilled jobs, and employers looking to hire. This package of bills will remove some of the program’s arbitrary restrictions and maximize its job-creation potential.”

Under the program, training for newly hired workers is paid by capturing the state income tax associated with the new employees’ wages and redirecting it to a local college, instead of to the state. These new jobs must pay at least 175 percent of the state minimum wage in effect at the time the agreement is entered into. Once the training costs are paid off, the new employee’s income tax withholding will go to the state and become state revenue.

“The Michigan New Jobs Training Program has done a great job helping job providers collaborate with community colleges to create training programs that connect today’s students with tomorrow’s jobs,” said Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, sponsor of SB 69. “This legislation improves the program by allowing more colleges to participate in the future and by ensuring graduates receive a competitive wage when they enter the workforce.”

The MNJTP generated more than $76 million in additional earnings and 2,266 new jobs in 2012 alone, according to a report issued in 2013 by the Anderson Economic Group (AEG), an independent economic research and consulting firm based in East Lansing. Going forward, the AEG study projects the MNJTP annually to generate $143 million in additional earnings and more than 4,700 jobs.

“This collaborative program between community colleges and businesses has shown great success in preparing workers for jobs that companies are waiting to fill,” said Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, who sponsored Senate Bill 70. “These bills will ensure community colleges are able to participate and train workers going forward by eliminating a previously established cap in the existing law. Doing so will mean fewer companies will be waiting for qualified employees.”

St. Clair County Community College (SC4) is one of the schools taking part in the program. The college has partnerships with SMR Automotive of Marysville, Grace Engineering of Memphis and Eissmann Automotive of Port Huron.

Dr. Kevin Pollock, president of SC4, testified last week before the Senate Education Committee about the value of the program to St. Clair County and the Thumb region. He touted the program’s direct benefits, including 189 eligible new jobs resulting from MNJTP agreements with SMR Automotive, Grace Engineering, and Eissmann Automotive.

“Not only does this program help create jobs, it also provides superior training for employees,” Pollock said. “This targeted training eliminates the skills gap by providing employees with the precise skills they need to match employers’ needs. In addition, the program’s emphasis on local involvement helps educators and employers work together to benefit their communities.”

In the past, representatives of Northwestern Michigan College and General Motors Co. have testified before the Education Committee in support of the MNJTP, as have Magna International Inc. CEO Frank Ervin and SMR Automotive’s Marysville facility Managing Director Sai Tatineni.

The committee has also heard from WABCO North America, a tier-one automotive supplier in Rochester Hills that partners with Oakland County Community College, and Johnson Controls of Holland, which holds an MNJTP contract with Grand Rapids Community College.

Senate Bills 69–71 have been sent to the Michigan House for further consideration.

Booher: Ludington awarded grant for road project

Senator Darwin Booher

Senator Darwin Booher

LANSING, Mich.—The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Transportation Economic Development Fund has awarded the city of Ludington a $375,000 Category F grant, state Sen. Darwin Booher announced on Tuesday.

The grant is for a road project to improve Sixth Street between the streets of Washington and Sherman in the city.

“I am happy for the residents of Ludington that their city was chosen to receive this important grant,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This money will go a long way in helping the city complete this important road project.”

Category F grants are competitive grants made to eligible road agencies in order to preserve and/or expand all-season road networks within the urban areas of rural counties.

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Booher bill establishes Sleeping Bear specialty license plate

Senator Darwin Booher

Senator Darwin Booher

LANSING, Mich. — Michiganders would be able to purchase a special Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore license plate under legislation introduced in the state Senate on Tuesday, said state Sen. Darwin Booher.

“The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Pure Michigan’s treasured natural wonders,” said Booher, R-Evart, who introduced Senate Bill 91. “Even beyond the dunes, there are culturally important historic structures and other resources that are often overlooked. By purchasing a specialty license plate, Michiganders will not only be able to show their support for the park, but also contribute to its use and preservation.”

Proceeds from the sale of the specialty plate will go to help support Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear (PHSB), a nonprofit that works to preserve and restore the park’s resources, as well as educate the public about all it has to offer.

“Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear hopes to help fund needed preservation projects in the park by launching a successful Sleeping Bear Dunes fundraising plate,” said Susan Pocklington, director of PHSB. “With the sponsorship of Senator Booher, a yes vote from the Legislature, signature from the governor, and the purchasing support of Michigan residents, there is hope for significant impact to protect and preserve the resources of this national park that so many love and enjoy.”

Officially established by Congress in 1970, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore stretches across 70,000 acres of Leelanau and Benzie counties. The park includes the natural geography and forests of birch, pine, beech, and maple, along with 64 miles of Lake Michigan beaches, two islands, 26 inland lakes and the monumental sand dunes.

Beyond these natural features, the park also contains a treasure trove of Michigan history, including pioneer farmsteads, early cabins and cottages, and three U.S. life-saving service stations, including a lighthouse. In 1998, however, the park service found itself unable to care for these 200-plus historic structures and began to demolish them as they fell into disrepair.

A grass-roots effort led by local citizens resulted in the founding of PHSB. The group, an official park partner for more than 15 years, helps protect and preserve the historical resources and cultural landscapes embodied in the remnants of 19th century agriculture, logging, maritime and tourism activities in the area.

Booher said funds from the license plates sales, which will be transmitted quarterly, will go a long way to support the group and the park.

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Booher comments on Snyder’s 2016 proposed budget

Senator Darwin Booher

Senator Darwin Booher

LANSING, Mich.—State Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, issued the following statement after Gov. Rick Snyder presented his Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Senate and House Appropriations committees:

“It pleases me that the governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget maintains previous years’ fiscally responsible approach to governing our state, while at the same time making smart investments in important areas like education, public safety, and paying down debt. I will also strongly advocate for continued investment in our state’s tourism initiatives and the Pure Michigan campaign, which are vitally important to northern Michigan communities.

“Of note, I appreciate the proposed increase in K-12 funding by $75 per pupil and the focus on improving third grade reading performance, which is an important indicator of students’ future academic success. I also think it is wise to invest in skilled trades training programs, which provide excellent educational opportunities for students and prepare them for highly skilled, well-paying jobs that are in high demand.

“Today’s presentation was a good starting point, and I look forward to working with the governor and my legislative colleagues as we begin the budgeting process and continue our work to fix Michigan.”