Lansing Update: October 5, 2007

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Conference Launches Massive Statewide Stem Cell Education Program
  2. Tax Increases, Reforms End Four Hour Government Shutdown

Conference Launches Massive Statewide Stem Cell Education Program

This week the Michigan Catholic Conference launched a statewide internal education program that will reach approximately 500,000 homes and nearly 800 parishes. The purpose of the program is for Michigan diocesan bishops to communicate the Catholic Church’s teaching on human life as it relates to adult and embryonic stem cell research.

The program has been under development for several months and was implemented in time for Respect Life Sunday, October 7th. In September a packet of informational material was sent by the Conference to every parish in the state urging priests to address the issue of stem cell research in their homilies this coming weekend. On October 1, a packet was sent to every registered Catholic home in the state that included a letter signed by the state’s diocesan bishops, a 12-minute DVD [Link no longer available —Ed.] titled “The Science of Stem Cells: Finding Cures and Protecting Life,” and a brochure, titled “Understanding the Relationship Between Stem Cell Research and Catholic Teaching.”

Three central messages are included in the education program:

According to the bishops’ letter: “Catholics have the right and duty to assist all who are suffering, and medical science, through adult stem cell research and its proven track record of success, has opened a door of hope. We urge you and your family to spend a few moments reviewing the enclosed material and learning more about the ways by which we can find cures and protect life.”

Tax Increases, Reforms End Four Hour Government Shutdown

This week legislative leaders and the executive office agreed on a plan [Link no longer available —Ed.] to balance the state’s $1.8 billion deficit some four hours after state government was forced to shut down. The deal included raising some $1.35 billion through tax increases, passing legislation that reformed public teacher health and pension benefits, and enacting a measure that allows existing state spending to continue for 30 days.

The remaining $435 million that needs to be raised for a balanced budget will come from departmental cuts that must be enacted prior to the 30-day extension expiring. The Conference has advocated to members of the Legislature that such cuts must not come from departments that provide essential human services to the poor and vulnerable population of the state.

The legislature engaged in marathon sessions throughout budget negotiations as Michigan’s October 1 constitutional deadline for a balanced budget fast approached. The sessions have been recorded as the longest in state history. When 12 a.m. arrived on October 1 with no budget deal the state was forced to shut down the majority of its operations and temporarily layoff some 35,000 state workers.

The $1.35 billion in enhanced revenue will be generated from increasing the state’s income tax from 3.9 to 4.35 percent and extending the state’s 6 percent sales tax to certain services [Link no longer available —Ed.]. In 2011 the income tax will then begin decreasing until it returns to 3.9 percent in 2015. The state budget crisis excitement is likely to continue as anti-tax increase organizations have promised to run recall campaigns against up to five legislators who voted to raise taxes. At least one legislator is expected to introduce legislation that would repeal the sales tax on personal services.