The state Legislature has kicked off its 2014 session.
One of the first pieces of legislation introduced in 2014 would encourage Michigan employers to hire more parolees. More than 70% of people recently released from prison are unemployed and that number has been rising steadily over the past decade.
“By getting them employed, we stand a much better chance of having them stay out of prison and rebuild their lives and return to society and produce,” said state Rep. Joe Haveman (R-Holland).
The legislation introduced Wednesday would encourage the Michigan Department of Corrections to expand job training and certification programs for inmates. It would also limit liabilities for businesses that hire parolees.
One of the Legislature’s first big debates of the new year will be what to do with a projected budget surplus. Early estimates suggest the state will have hundreds of millions of dollars more than it expected.
Many Republicans want to respond by reducing Michigan’s income tax rate. But Democrats would rather cut taxes for retirees and middle-class families.
“So let’s get rid of the pension tax first, let’s get the middle class back the homestead exemption and the other deductions that they had, and then let’s have the conversation about rolling back the income tax,” said state Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids).
Democrats are also calling for half of any surplus money to go to public schools and universities.