Barely making it — minimum wage still isn’t enough for single people in Michigan

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan minimum wage earners are not making enough to afford their most basic needs like housing, food, clothing or transportation, statistics show.

The Michigan League for Public Policy argues that the minimum wage of $8.15 is not enough to live on. In Lake County, for instance, a single adult, full-time worker would need to make $10 an hour to meet basic needs, according to a 2014 study by the league. In Grand Traverse County, the amount goes up to $11 an hour. In Manistee County, you can get by on $9.94 per hour.

Not a single county lists $8.15 per hour or less as meeting the basic needs wage.

Take rental housing. According to Megan Bolton, research director for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, homeownership rates declined and are still declining after the foreclosure crisis. This has resulted in a huge surge in the number of renters.
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Student loan tax credits could keep graduates in Michigan, bill sponsor says

Capital News Service

LANSING — A bill to provide tuition tax credits for people paying off student loans is designed to keep young graduates in Michigan, but not everyone is convinced the plan will work.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., an East Lansing Democrat, has introduced a bill to ease college graduates’ loan burdens for up to five years after graduation if they live and work in Michigan. The bill would give qualifying graduates a tax credit up to 50 percent of the amount paid on student loans — up to $2,150 for an individual, and $4,300 for a married couple per year.

“The governor has talked a lot about talent retention,” Hertel said. “I sat down with some of our major universities, and one of the issues we have is the overwhelming number of students that are leaving the state, and not moving into our state.

“For people that are working here, staying here and investing here, we would be able to provide a tax credit for the first five years to try to get them on their feet, and try to get them back as part of the economy.”
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West Michigan retaining young, educated residents despite statewide trend

Capital News Service

LANSING –While many of Michigan’s counties are experiencing an exodus of the young and educated, the Greater Grand Rapids region is bucking the trend.

According to 2013 census data, Michigan lost 3.5 per cent of its population of people aged 22 to 34 with bachelor’s degrees to other states.

This follows net migration losses of the young and educated of 2.2 percent in 2012 and 2 percent in 2011. In 2010 the state lost 4.4 percent of this group to outmigration.
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Less state money for mandates makes counties pay


Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan is requiring Kent County to increase public health counseling with no additional state funding.

Ottawa County has just discovered it must begin reimbursing foster parents’ mileage under Department of Human Services requirements.

State funding for Marquette County’s senior services has dropped more than 20 percent since 2007, leaving these expenses for the county to cover.

Michigan counties say issues like these are created by unfunded or underfunded mandates — new services the state requires counties to perform without paying its share of the costs.
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Many brick-and-mortar businesses welcome online sales tax

Capital News Service

LANSING — Many businesses across northern Michigan will benefit from a new law that subjects online retailers such as Amazon and to the same 6 percent sales tax that “brick-and-mortar” businesses collect from consumers.

The Main Street Fairness Act will affect any online retailer that has a physical presence in the state of Michigan, or has subsidiaries that have a physical presence in the state. The legislation specifically notes businesses that have warehouses and distribution centers in the state, in what is seen as an attempt to target large online retailers such as Amazon.

When the law goes into effect on Oct. 15, it will make Michigan the 23rd state to enact legislation subjecting online retailers to what is more commonly known as the “Amazon tax.”
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Auditors raise concerns about State Surplus inventory tracking

Capital News Service

LANSING – The D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette was looking to unload a Chevy transport van with a wheelchair lift.

A medical transportation company in Flint was looking to pick one up.


Marquette’s D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans sold this surplus 2006 Chevy Express 3500 LS van on MiBid for $10,177. Credit: MiBid

Buyer and seller met Jan. 20 on MiBid, an Internet auction site overseen by Michigan’s State Surplus program. The van, a 2006 Chevy Express 3500 LS with 48,000 miles, sold to On the Move Transportation for $10,177.
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Where rubber hits road, new taxes fix them


Capital News Service

LANSING — As lawmakers wrangle over how to fix the state’s crumbling road system, one group is increasingly volunteering to foot the bill: Local taxpayers.

More than a third of counties now have local property tax increases in place to help fund road maintenance.

In 2006, voters in 12 counties had approved local road maintenance levies. That number has now risen to 28 as of this year, when eight passed new increases in the August primary and November general elections.


Source: County Road Association of Michigan.

Although the taxes are expected to bring in millions of dollars in additional road funds each year, local leaders say it will barely make a dent, even if the House passes a bill in December to double the gasoline tax.
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Business owners say minimum wage could push up prices


Capital News Service

LANSING — Some Michigan small businesses that pay employees more than the state’s minimum wage say the recent increase could drive costs up for their customers.

It rose from $7.40 to $8.15 on Sept. 1 in the first of four phases leading to $9.20 in 2018 for workers who don’t get tips.

Mike Valle, owner of Valle’s Village Market in Marquette, said the increase could translate into a price-hike domino effect, even though he is already paying employees more.
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Authors “Canvas Detroit” for art’s impact on the urban environment


Capital News Service

A street mural from Hygienic Dress League. Photo: Flickr/CC

A street mural from Hygienic Dress League. Photo: Flickr/CC

LANSING — In “Canvas Detroit,” a new book from Wayne State University Press, Nichole Christian and Julie Pincus profile the Motor City’s brightest and most diverse up-and-coming street artists.

From murals on boulevards to grass sculptures, their work can actively improve the urban environment and shine a light on previously ignored and abandoned cityscapes, the authors say.

Detroit is a city that needs “problem solving,” Christian says, and art won’t solve it all. But the city is fostering a wickedly creative atmosphere that is ripe for revitalization.

In a recent interview, Christian explained the importance of street art and how it can revitalize a city.

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Road restrictions hamper farmers this spring


Capital News Service

LANSING — The farming industry feels the lingering effects of the polar vortex in some parts of the state as cold temperatures continue into spring.

County governments implement seasonal weight restrictions on roads every year to reduce the impact heavy trucks can have on roads.

“By law, road agencies can enact weight restrictions on roads that are not designated as all-season routes when conditions merit,” County Road Association of Michigan says on its website.

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