Former East Lansing Mayor Sam Singh and longtime Meridian Township supervisor Susan McGillicuddy entered their final days of their duel to represent area residents in the Michigan House of Representatives spirited and competing. The 69th House district includes East Lansing and much of Ingham County, and currently is held by state Rep. Mark Meadows, who is term-limited.
Both candidates are alumni of Michigan State University, and they see the students and higher education as one of their chief concerns in the House.
“We have done a disservice to our citizens because we have made higher education so expensive in the state,” Singh said. “I think one of the biggest mistakes made in the past decade was the governor and the Legislature, when they removed the Promise Scholarship.”
Although McGillicuddy agrees higher education is a top concern, she said she is concerned with how to ensure high-quality jobs are available for graduates.
“(Many students) find they have to leave the state to find work,” she said. “When you have a lot of college debt and that has to get paid off, it’s imperative to find full-time work.”
Singh also said he’s concerned about jobs, and is concerned with the angry disputes going on between organized labor and businesses, evident in the furor over potential Right to Work legislation and the push to lock collective bargaining into the state constitution through Proposal 2.
“My hope is as a Legislature we can build the right coalition that can help support business and at the same time support labor,” he said. “We shouldn’t be pitting these groups against each other.”
McGillicuddy said she believes Michigan should become a Right to Work state, but that does not mean people should not be able to organize into unions if they so choose. She believes Michigan needs to lighten its tax burden on businesses to attract new employers to the state.
“I really believe we need to reduce the tax burden on our business community so that businesses will look at Michigan as an attractive place to come to,” she said. “A lot of surrounding states … have more attractive tax policies, so it’s real easy for businesses to go there rather than here.”
In addition to jobs, Michigan’s reinvention also requires a better funding mechanism for K-12 education, Singh said.
“It’s been an area we have cut too dramatically over the past two years,” he said. “For us to be positioned in a global economy, we have to take a look at our curriculum, but also how we fund our institutions.”
He said performance metrics could be an integral component of funding, so long as the data schools are required to collect is used to improve education and service. Singh also said he believes foreign languages need to be entwined into education from elementary school to best prepare students for a global economy.
McGillicuddy said education dollars need to be funneled into better pre-kindergarten programs and into technical schools as an alternative to a traditional university education.
“I’d rather improve pre-K funding, quite honestly, and get children into preschool earlier, especially in low-income families,” she said. “K-12 funding is adequate. Michigan is the 12th highest spender (of the states) … but our kids are underperforming.”
To hear more from the candidates in their own words, visit their campaign websites at www.susanmcgillicuddy.com and www.votesamsingh.com. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 6. For more information on where and how to vote, visit www.cityofeastlansing.com/elections.